The National Archaelogical
Museum of Naples
The National Archaelogical Museum of Naples can be considered one of the most important cultural centres in the world in terms of the quantity and quality of Greek and Roman relics it contains.
The museum building was constructed in 1585, on the hill of Santa Teresa, then a solitary spot but now surrounded by the chaotic traffic of the city centre.
The building was originally a Cavalry Barracks, built by order of Don Pedro Giron, Duke of Ossuna, viceroy of Naples; was later used as a University, and was finally turned into a museum under Charles of Bourbon.
The National Library was also situated here for a long period, up until 1922 when it was transferred to the Royal Palace.
The initial nucleus of the museum was established by Charles of Bourbon to display the Farnese collection which he inherited from his mother.
However, the subsequent enlargement of the immense artistic patrimony, determined by the addition of remains found in the archaeological excavations at Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabia, led to the search for new premises, and the transfer to the present building.
It is practically impossible to mention every one of the enormous number of relics and works on display here, which makes the National Archaeological Museum of Naples one of the most authoritative and prestigious collections in the world; we will instead limit ourselves to some of the most important artistic works.
It should also be remembered that a change in exhibiting criteria has led, in the last few years, to a new arrangement of the areas open to the public.
Most notable among the various exhibits and rooms are the Farnese Hercules, from the Roman Baths of Caracalla; the Farnese Cup a splendid example of cameo, once a part of the Medici collections; the Halls of Villa Papyri, where numerous sculptural exhibits are displayed, brought here from the excavations at the Herculaneum villa; the Halls of the Temple of Isis, containing frescoes and other material from Pompeii, once kept in the museum's store-rooms; the Doryphorus, an admirable copy from the original by Polyclitus, from Pompeii; the relief showing the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice; the "Tirannicides", Aristogeiton and Harmodius, the magnificent Roman copy of a Greek original of the 5th century BC; the Venus Callypige, from an Hellenistic original; the Farnese Bull, also from Capua; the small bronze of the Dancing Faun; the mosaic showing the Battle of Issus.
Completing the vast array of exhibits are paintings from Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabia, sculptures, small bronzes, and a collection of vases.
Among the latter, note the vases originating form Etruria, Attica, Lucania, Apulia and Campania.
Among the exhibits linked to Etruscan culture, the Small Bronze of a Donor (5th-4th centuries BC) is of considerable importance; it was found in the Commune of Capoliveri (Island of Elba) at the end of the 16th century.