On August 24, 79 AD, Vesuvius erupted in what was to be one of the biggest, deadliest, and most famous vulcano eruptions in the history of mankind...
On your visit to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples you will see objects of rare beauty. Many of these silent witnesses to the eruption were unearthed only recently from excavations at Pompeii, Herculaneum, and nearby archaeological sites around Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields.
Frescoes exhibited in the Wall Paintings Room are mainly portions of decorated wall plaster removed from the buildings buried by the eruption of the Vesuvius in 79 AD. The collection is an exceptional record of the art of decorative painting in Roman times. The fragments represent several themes: mythology and literature, still lives and landscapes, portraits, scenes of daily life, and religious ceremonies related to the household gods.
Another room shows the wall paintings removed from the temple of Isis in Pompeii. Their style is typical of the Hellenistic-Roman artistic tradition, but they include many elements of the cult of Isis and the Nile valley culture.
The museum also hosts a large cork model of Pompeii made between 1861 and 1879. The minute attention to detail is remarkable, and in some cases it represents the only record we have of paintings and mosaics subsequently destroyed.
An important silverware collection, most of it from houses in Pompeii and Herculaneum, is also on view. It includes silver artifacts found in the House of Menander in Pompeii, unique for their variety and the superlative quality of the workmanship.
The museum also displays a selection of objects made from ivory and bone, as well as objects in glazed terracotta, such as oil lamps, crockery, and ornamental ware. The glass collection comes mainly from the Vesuvian sites, but includes pieces from the Farnese collection. Three particularly precious artifacts made with the glass cameo technique were discovered in Pompeii - two panels portraying Dionysian scenes, and the famous Blue Vase.
The mosaics collection includes portions of floor decorations and some wall decorations dating back to the 2nd century BC up to 79 AD, mostly from Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae.
The Farnese collection of engraved gems includes specimens collected by Cosimo de' Medici and Lorenzo il Magnifico in the 15th century and works produced in Greek, Roman and Renaissance times. The most famous piece is a bowl made of sardonyx agate known as the Farnese Cup, one of the largest cameos in existence, produced at the court of the Ptolemies in Alexandria about 150 BC.
The epigraphs collection comprises important inscriptions in Greek, Oscan, Etruscan, and Latin. It provides a rich documentation of the history of the archaeological sites of Magna Græcia, the Campania region under the Greeks and the Romans, and Rome itself.
The Egyptian collection contains primarily works from two private collections - Cardinal Borgia's (from the second half of the 18th century) and Picchianti's (from the first years of the 19th century). It provides an important record of Egyptian civilization from the Old Kingdom up to the Ptolemaic-Roman era.
Many sculptures in marble and bronze and the portions of wall paintings come from the famous suburban Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, which takes its name from its impressive library of 2,000 papyrus scrolls. The villa was explored from 1750 to 1765 by Carlo Weber, who drew up a plan showing the whereabouts of the various artifacts. Thanks to his work, it has been possible to establish the aesthetic criteria which guided the choice and placing of the sculptures and reassemble the original scheme in its entirety, making this a rare example of a private art collection in ancient Roman times.
The exhibition “Magna Graecia - Great Greece” documents the history and culture of many centers of the Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria regions in the pre-Roman age through an ample selection of objects including vases, terracotta, funerary paintings, gold work, bronzes, glass, and coins.
The Hall of the Sun Dial hosted the Royal Library at the time of the creation of the Bourbon Museum. In 1781 it was restored and decorated by Pietro Bardellino and Giovan Evangelista Draghi. The sun dial in the floor is remarkable for the elegantly illustrated signs of the Zodiac.
The Topographical Section will soon occupy several rooms and provide a record of the history of the main sites of antiquity in the Campania region. Currently accessible rooms illustrate the pre- and protohistoric periods of the Bay of Naples and inland Campania.
The building that houses the museum was inaugurated in 1615 as the Palace of Royal Studies and was the seat of the university of Naples until 1777. In the late 18th century the building was extended. It then housed the Bourbon Museum and the Royal Library, to which the sumptuous Farnese collections of pictures, books, and antiquities were added, as well as the findings from Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae.
The collection passed into state ownership in 1860 and was renamed the National Museum. It became the National Archaeological Museum after the Royal Library and the collection of paintings were moved to a different location.