Naples National Archaeological Museum

Piazza Museo 19, Napoli
Campania, Italy
Phone: + 39 06 399 67 050
Website: http://www.museoarcheologiconapoli.it/en/
closed on: Tuesdays, Christmas and New Year's day
Museum Type: Archaeology

The Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples, Italy, is one of the largest archaeological museums in the world. It is particularly renowned for its collections of Roman antiquities.

History of architecture
The museum was founded in 1816 by Ferdinand I, King of the Two Sicilies, as the Real Museo Borbonico (Bourbon Royal Museum); in 1861, after the foundation of the Kingdom of Italy, the museum was renamed to Museo Archeologico Nazionale (National Archaeological Museum).

The monumental home of the museum was built in the early 17th century, after a design by architect Giulio Cesare Fontana, and subsequently enlarged in the 18th century and early 19th century by architects Ferdinando Fuga, Pompeo Schiantarelli, and Pietro Bianchi.
The architecture of the palace reflects its various construction stages, combining Baroque-style parts, such as the imposing Salone della Meridiana with Neoclassical ones.

Originally intended as an “universal museum” dedicated, accordingly to the encyclopaedic concepts en vogue at the time, to all art cultural forms of expression, the institution was thereafter progressively transformed into a museum of antiquities, also aimed to present the many artifacts collected from the excavations of the lost Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, both located on the outskirts of Naples.

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The building of the museum in 1841 in an etching by U. Rizzi; image courtesy of Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

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The grandiose “Salone della Meridiana”; photo: Peter Dean

Collections and permanent exhibition
The collections of the Naples Archeological National Museum comprise over 3,000 artifacts, divided into 8 thematic sections and exhibited in a permanent exhibition which spans four levels of the museum building.

Prehistoric, Etruscan, and Greek pieces from Naples and southern Italy are presented into the Topographic Section on the first floor.

Roman artifacts – including sculptures, mosaics, frescoes, glassware, ceramics, silverware, and jewels from all over Italy – are on view in the Farnese Gallery on the ground floor and in the Pompeian Gallery on the mezzanine and first levels. These two are possibly the most renowned collections and feature several masterpieces, such as a series of sculptures from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome – which includes the famous Farnese Hercules Hellenistic statue -, outstanding sculptures, frescoes, and mosaics from the House of the Faun in Pompeii and the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, and antique statues from all over the Magna Graecia, such as the Capuan Venus marble and a notable copy of the Doryphoros of Polykleitos dating to the Roman period.

The Egyptian Collection, located on the underground level, is one of the largest in Europe and includes sculptures, mummies, sarcophagi, papyri, and ceramics dating from the 27th century B.C to the 2nd century.

The Numismatic Collection, on view on the mezzanine level, comprises coins and medals coined from the times of the Greek colonization of southern Italy to the end of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, in 1861.

Programs and services
The program of events of the museum includes temporary exhibitions, conferences, seminars, and educational courses, especially aimed at children and schools.

Along with exhibition spaces, the building of the Naples National Archaeological Museum includes a reference library, a restoration workshop, a bookshop, a cafeteria, and two small gardens.
An underground urban railroad station (Stazione Museo) is located close to the museum; the station features a small permanent exhibition which showcases various antique artifacts, including some statues, discovered during the construction works for Naples’ underground train network.

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Bronze statues from the Villa of the Papyri in Ercolaneum; photos: hovistoninavolare

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Series of busts depicting Roman personalities, foreground: the so-called “bust of Scipio” from the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, 1st century BC; photo: Paul Mazumdar

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Wrought silver cup from Pompeii; photo: Darren Puttock

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Room with Roman-Greek sculptures from the Farnese Collection, foreground: Roman copies of two original Greek statues (now lost) depicting Harmodius and Aristogeiton; photo: Darren Puttock

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Roman statue of a dying amazon on a horse, Farnese Collection; photo: Albert

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Roman marble statue of a dog; photo: ho visto nina volare

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Statuettes from the Egyptian Collection; photo: Darren Puttock

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Fresco painting from Pompeii (detail); photo: Mike Steele

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Mosaic depicting landscape along the Nile with animals (detail), from the House of the Faun in Pompeii, 1st Century B.C.; photo: momo

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Mosaic with a cat fighting against a cock, ducks, fish, and shells, from the House of the Faun in Pompeii; photo courtesy of Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

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The Alexander Mosaic (Battle of Issus between Alexander and Darius III) from the House of the Faun in Pompeii (detail), ca. 100 B.C.; photo: momo

Cover image by Peter Dean

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Museums of archaeology and archaeological sites around the world

Museums of archaeology and archaeological sites around the world


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