Postcard from Naples, Italy: Frisky gods frolicked in the buff

Artemis of Ephesus, Goddess of Fertility, 2nd Century

In the mid-1700s, Charles III of Bourbon (1716-1788), King of Naples, began exploring the towns buried by Vesuvius and combined some of those finds with works of art he moved from palaces in Rome and Parma he inherited from his mother, Elisabeth Farnese (1692-1766), Queen of Spain. His son, Ferdinando IV (1751-1825), moved the treasures into a building that originally was a 16th-century riding school and later the university. Today the structure serves as the National Archaeology Museum or Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (MANN).

The mosaics from Pompeii were my favorite part of the museum, but, unfortunately the galleries containing the largest mosaics were closed temporarily for renovation. No photos appear here of the outside of MANN because it was completely covered by scaffolding, possibly removed by now.

While ancient Romans favored wearings togas, tunics, stolas and pallas, many of their gods tended to frolic shamelessly in a bacchanalian existence, cavorting and coupling in fashions far from puritanical.

This is evident throughout the impressive museum, but even more so in the Gabinetto Secreto, or Secret Cabinet. In this gallery clearly marked with a warning as to its mature content, one finds the more pornographic-seeming artifacts from Pompeii and erotic objects of the Borgia Collection. The only one of the above images shot in the Secret Cabinet is that of the enormously endowed god Priapus, kind of an X-rated scarecrow threatening evil-doers with rape.

Postcard from Rome, Italy: Trying to appeal to friends with wine and gratuitous nudity

So I salute you, Dionysus of the abundant grape clusters: grant that I may come again in happiness at the due time; and time after time for many a year.

Homeric Hymn to Dionysus, quotation posted in Palazzo Massimo

Pondering what image to feature to entice you to glance at a few more photographs of ancient Roman art, thought about cats. The cat mosaic perhaps? Or the close-up of chicken feet? Or maybe hair styles of Roman women? Deciding I know my audience, finally selected wine served, if mainly spilled, by nudes.

These were snapped during a visit to another of the museums that house portions of the collection of Museo Nationale Romano. Built in the 1880s and formerly serving as a Jesuit college, Palazzo Massimo was transformed into a museum a century later.

The collection within focuses on artifacts from the 2nd century B.C. to 4th century A.D. Included are statues from Nero’s summer villa, Roman copies of Greek statues, floor mosaics and entire rooms moved lock, stock and barrel from several ancient villas.

 

Postcard from Ferrara, Italy: Museums serving history in manageable bites

The landmarks housing Ferrara’s museums are worth visiting for their historical and architectural merits alone. Their content provides glimpses of Italy’s past in small, easy-to-digest bites.

These photographs are from Casa Romei, built in 1445 by Giovanni Romei who married Polissena of the ruling Este family, and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, a 16th-century palace primarily showcasing artifacts from the Greco-Etruscan seaport of Spina.

My take-away lesson? The true definition of symposium gleaned from text in the archeological museum.

During all those years of working with nonprofits, why did no one ever fill me in on the proper recipe for conducting a symposium? Comfortable couches for reclining; snacks within easy reach; and, most importantly, free-flowing wine generating free-flowing conversation and exchange of ideas. I would have attended more and staged more if I had only known.

Although, maybe those years of gatherings in the over-sized corner booth of the Kangaroo Court on the River Walk were just that.

Let Paseo del Rio lore be altered henceforth. The almost mandatory, after-work, boozy gatherings of River Rats were not mere happy hours; they were lofty downtown symposia.

Dionysus certainly would hoist a glass in approval. And, as I learned this in Italy, Bacchus would as well.