The one night we scheduled in Naples was primarily so we could visit the National Archeological Museum. In and of itself, it wouldn’t be the type of museum that would bring me to the city, but I knew that visiting here would give much added context and background to a visit to the ruins at Pompeii that would be coming up a couple of days later.
The museum houses an interesting collection of artifacts from Pompeii – from large works of art taken from the site to every day tools and utensils. We spent a couple of hours browsing the collections and it was a great investment in time that I can’t recommend enough. When we visited Pompeii two days later, we could stand in the ruins and recall the mosaics, paintings and statues we had seen a few days earlier.
When we were at Pompeii we kept thinking back on the vividness of the colours in much of the art and how the pieces we had seen would have looked in context in the ancient city. A great example is this painting from the House of Pansa representing fish and game. At Pompeii, the House of Pansa is in a fairly poor state of repair – thinking back on this piece helped us visualize a bit better.
The mosaic collection in the museum is truly remarkable. The level of precise tile work in these pieces was something to behold. From even just a moderate distance away, they look like paintings.
Perhaps the most rewarding piece we viewed was the Alexander Mosaic from the House of the Faun. The House of Faun in Pompeii was an enormous residence that in its time was lasciviously decorated. On site there’s a crude reproduction of this work of art that doesn’t do the original any justice at all. Having seen this (plus a number of other pieces of art from the House of Faun) here in Naples, we were much better able to visualize the grandeur of the residence when we were standing in it in Pompeii. That alone was worth the time and price of admission for the archaeological museum.
The museum has a collection of erotic art taken from a number of locations at Pompeii including from the brothels. Below were some of the pieces with more artistic value. I have a few other photos from the museum that I’ll keep away from this blog… who really needs to see a flying phallus or inter-species copulation sculpture? This wing of the museum (the “Secret Room”) had been kept off limits to visitors for a long while and has only been generally open to all visitors over 14 years of age since 2000.
Another wing of the museum I really enjoyed was the Farnese Marbles. There are a significant number of large marble statues, including the Farnese Hercules:
If you are planning a visit to Pompeii and can spare a few hours en route there, this museum will really add to your experience. Not only did I enjoy the museum and how it enriched the visit to Pompeii, I’m also grateful that it brought us to Naples, a place we might have passed over otherwise.