Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Pompeii in Naples

Although we don't like Naples, we decided to make the most of our time here by visiting the National Archeological Museum, which holds many artefacts from Pompeii.  The first three pictures below show some of the many ornaments that have been removed from the ruins for better preservation.  Ornaments that belonged in Pompeiian homes.  Many pots are on display, notably kitchen items used for cooking and serving (see the fourth pic below).  Also pots for storage, perhaps of olive oil or wine.

The fifth picture below shows six paintings.  The top three are the 'three tragic masks'.  The bottom three depict the 'prows of large ships', decorated with 'apotropaic eyes', which look across a harbour.  All six paintings were removed from the same house, a wealthy person's house, which overlooked the harbour on the western slopes of Pompeii.  It is believed the harbour near the wealthy person's house is the same harbour depicted in the paintings.

The sixth picture below shows Hercules, carrying Hyllus in one arm, looking towards the centaur, Nessus.  As stated by the notes next to the original in the museum, "Nessus shows the depth of the river by the gesture he is making with his arms.  He is about to carry Deianeira across it on his back (from Pompeii, House of the Centaur)."

The seventh picture below depicts Pelias, king of Iolcus with his sons on the steps of a temple near to where they will sacrifice a bull.  Pelias is terrified because he had just recognised the man who, according to an oracle, will bring his reign to an end.  The man is Jason, on the right in the picture, and he is missing a sandal.

We toured the mosaics section, which revealed that some very impressive mosaics were produced in Pompeii.  Some of the pillars used in construction were lovingly decorated.  Elaborate designs were devised to enhance the appearance of private residences.  Sometimes, there was a very useful purpose to a mosaic, like in the ninth picture below, which echoes a practice still in use today.  It is a mosaic of a dog on a chain, and it simply means 'beware of the dog'.  This one's an image of the original, which has been loaned to the British Museum in London.

While we were touring the museum, we visited the 'Secret Room', not knowing what to expect.  Readers of this blog will recall there was a brothel in Pompeii with bawdy paintings adorning its walls.  The Secret Room contains similar erotic images, depicting various sexual positions, best left to the imagination.  They all came from Pompeii.  There are not only paintings but also sculptures, carvings and ornaments, sometimes showing very large phalluses.  It goes to show that sex has been a prominent human pre-occupation since time immemorial.  I took several photos.  One of them, a rather tame painting, is shown below in my tenth picture.  In the 19th century, when morals were very strict, viewing these pornographic materials was not allowed without invitation by 'diplomats'.  But, of course, they are on full display today.  I had considered devoting a separate blog post exclusively to these exhibits, entitling it 'Ribald Antiquity' or 'The Secret Room', but thought perhaps not.  I can show you my pics later.  Or you'll just have to visit Naples, even though we wouldn't recommend visiting Naples.

The National Archeological Museum also holds many marble sculptures, and, I believe, the entire Farnese collection, marbles acquired over time by the Farnese family which financed significant excavation works centuries ago.  The statue of Hercules, shown below, may have been a part of the Farnese collection, although I can't remember for sure.

Ornaments from Pompeiian homes.....
....were many and varied, depicting people, animals, and various objects for decoration...
....or which may have been put to good use.
Note these Pompeiian pots with spout for draining contents.
The Three Tragic Masks and ships in the harbour
Hercules and Nessus
Pelias and Jason
A Pompeiian pillar in the mosaics animal about to be killed
This mosaic meant 'beware of the dog'.  
A painting from The Secret Room.
Statue of Doriforo, removed from Pompeii
Hercules: a second century AD copy of a 5th century BC original.  May have been in the Farnese collection.

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