In many ways, our culture has descended from the Greeks and the Romans. And yet, I think that we are so far removed from them that we no longer react the way that ancient audiences did.
According to the Greeks, the Graces were the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome. They were Aglaea (“Splendor”), Euphrosyne (“Good Cheer”), and Thalia (“Festivity”), though there were many name variations.
What surprises me most of the above depiction from first century Pompeii is its matter-of-factness. Three young unclothed women, realistically painted, who do not inspire lust but merely exist on their own terms. If you look at Renaissance or later images of the Graces, you will notice they are more beautiful and appealing. I do not think the Roman artist failed in his depiction, but that he rendered them on a different plane altogether.
It is as if they are saying, “It does not matter to us whether or not you find us appealing. We are immortal goddesses, and you are mortal men.”