National Archaeological Museum

Naples, Italy

The National Archaeological Museum of Naples is an important Italian archaeological museum, particularly for ancient Roman remains. Its collection includes works from Greek, Roman and Renaissance times, and especially Roman artifacts from nearby Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum.

The building was built as a cavalry barracks in 1585. From 1616 to 1777 it was the seat of the University of Naples. During the 19th century, after it became museum, it suffered many changes to the main structure.

The museum hosts extensive collections of Greek and Roman antiquities. Their core is from the Farnese Collection, which includes a collection of engraved gems (including the Farnese Cup, a Ptolemaic bowl made of sardonyx agate and the most famous piece in the 'Treasure of the Magnificent', and is founded upon gems collected by Cosimo de' Medici and Lorenzo il Magnifico in the 15th century) and the Farnese Marbles. Among the notable works found in the museum are the Herculaneum papyri, carbonized by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, found after 1752 in Villa of the Papyri.

The greater part of the museum's classical sculpture collection largely comes from the Farnese Marbles, important since they include Roman copies of classical Greek sculpture, which are in many cases the only surviving indications of what the lost works by ancient Greek sculptors such as Calamis, Kritios and Nesiotes looked like. Many of these works, especially the larger ones, have been moved to the Museo di Capodimonte for display in recent years.

The museum's Mosaic Collection includes a number of important mosaics recovered from the ruins of Pompeii and the other Vesuvian cities. This includes the Alexander Mosaic, dating from circa 100 BC, originally from the House of the Faun in Pompeii. It depicts a battle between the armies of Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia. Another mosaic found is that of the gladiatorial fighter depicted in a mosaic found from the Villa of the Figured Capitals in Pompeii.

With 2,500 objects, the museum has one of the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in Italy after the Turin, Florence and Bologna ones. It is made up primarily of works from two private collections, assembled by Cardinal Stefano Borgia in the second half of the 18th century, and Picchianti in the first years of the 19th. In the recent rearrangement of the galleries the two nuclei have been exhibited separately, while in the connecting room other items are on display, including Egyptian and 'pseudo-Egyptian' artefacts from Pompeii and other Campanian sites. In its new layout the collection provides both an important record of Egyptian civilization from the Old Kingdom (2700-2200 B.C.) up to the Ptolemaic-Roman era.

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Address

Piazza Museo 22, Naples, Italy
See all sites in Naples

Details

Founded: 1777
Category: Museums in Italy

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Hugo Pettersson (11 months ago)
Can not give less than five stars for all the treasures kept here. Information could be better and a pity some rooms were roped off. Great Canova exhibition when we were there.
Noelle Gregory Thompson (11 months ago)
If you like ancient sculpture, you'll enjoy this museum. The collection of sculptures is impressive and there are many beautiful frescoes. The museum itself is a bit run down and there are lots of empty displays. They appear to be renovating and the courtyard is full of consruction debris. However, there isn't much else to do in Naples, so I would recommend checking it out.
JKB Buehringen (11 months ago)
Absolutely spectacular museum. Definitely one of the very best in the world. I however take one star off for not having any options to eat and drink except a string of vending machines (sorry, not adequate in this case).
xiaoli Huang (11 months ago)
Excellent collection! Way more exhibited than one can digest in a visit. Takes a good half day, bring a few snack you will need it. The Pompeii collection is way up stairs in the corner, which is the reason for my visit. The gun powder collaborated show is a really neat and conceptually nichy, toasting Hercules etc for a burnt color plus smell effect. Bring extra sensory experience into the show!
Joy Shute (12 months ago)
The museum has some nice exhibits on Pompeii and Herculaneum, but they comprise maybe half the museum space (of which areas are closed, more on that later) so it is not as much as you would hope for after visiting both sited as we did. The museum has artifacts from the House of the Faun in Pompeii that were fascinating, but is that worth 15€? Maybe not. Also, while the outside is beautiful the inside of the museum is in need of maintenance. There are literal cobwebs on statues! There is one bathroom in the entire museum so if you are female be prepared to wait at least 15 min. Also 2 large areas of the museum dedicated to Pompeii were roped off to guests. When I say roped off I mean you can look down the corridor and see there are many artifacts they just inexplicably have them closed off for who knows what reason. We were also hoping to see the original casts of the victims of Pompeii, but either they are in a closed off section or are no longer displayed. Overall it's a decent museum, but it definitely didn't live up to the hype. If you have visited Pompeii I promise you aren't missing anything to just skip this.
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Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

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Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.