"Farnese Hercules" at The National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen)
The National Archaeology Museum in Naples is one of the most spectacular showcases of antiquities in the world. And it’s all too often overlooked by tourists who view the city solely as a launch pad to visit the Amalfi coast, Capri, or the other islands in the Bay of Naples.
While the red brick city-center museum holds precious artifacts dating back to pre-historic times, the heart of the collection is the exquisitely carved marbles, playful mosaics, colorful frescoes, and cryptic papyrus scrolls that illustrate life and love in towns such as Pompeii and Herculaneum that were destroyed and buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
The excavations of these Vesuvian towns were sponsored by the Bourbon kings in the 18th and 19th centuries, and while some of the myriad artifacts remain on site in Campania, thousands of them are displayed in this labyrinthine museum that astonishes visitors at every turn.
In addition to treasures from Pompeii, Herculaneum, and their sister towns and villas, the museum also reflects the legacy of the aristocratic Farnese family. The Bourbon King Charles III was the son of the Spanish King Philip V and Elizabeth, from the House of Farnese, based in Parma. By the end of the 18th century not only were myriad masterpieces from Parma transferred to Naples but also many of the most famous marbles from Rome, such as the massive sculptures from the Baths of Caracalla—created in the 3rd century but unearthed during the 16th-century reign of family relative, Pope Paul III Farnese.
Join art historian and tour guide Laura R. Weinstein live from Rome as she highlights some of the most fascinating collections of this visit-worthy cultural gem in Naples. Weinstein is an Emmy-nominated, National Geographic-trained documentary film producer and teacher. She is the world's expert on one of the most intriguing objects in the museum, an ivory statuette from India found in the rubble of Pompeii.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*
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