A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Museums Can Be Sexy


Here's the entrance to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples. This imposing building was first a cavalry barracks, then part of the university. It finally became a museum in the late 18th century, and today holds one of the best collections of Greco-Roman artefacts in the world. You can marvel there at extraordinary Classical, Etruscan and Egyptian antiquities: sculptures and statuary (including the famous 'Farnese Bull' - restored by Michelangelo - which depicts the Queen of Thebes tied to a bull and being torn apart on some rocks), murals and frescoes, helmets and instruments of warfare, ceramics, glassware, homely household items ...

Some of the most touching, intimate and beautiful objects are the fragments of fresco rescued from Pompeii and Herculaneum, the nearby towns submerged in ash and mud lava after the volcanic eruption of Mt Vesuvius in AD 79 ...




This fresco comes from Stabiae, a seaside resort also engulfed by the eruption. It's known as Primavera di Stabiae (Stabiae's Springtime). The delicately painted figure of Spring is walking gracefully away from us, picking flowers as she goes ... Immediately I'm reminded of another figure whose back I photographed earlier in Palermo ...



And what's going on here? This is the goddess Artemis of Ephesus, one of the most widely venerated deities in Ancient Greece, and the centre of a huge cult. (Most statues in the museum are Roman copies of Greek originals, but this one's an actual Roman original - from the 2nd century AD.) So what on earth are all those strange protuberances on her chest? Some think this shows a many-breasted goddess of over-abundant fertility - after all, Artemis is the goddess of forests and hills, fertility and the hunt. But in fact these odd fruit-like globules are apparently more likely to represent the scrota of bulls, victims of sacrifice ...



And things get stranger and stranger ... for who can this reclining, pewter-like figure be? A hermaphrodite for sure ... and surrounded by wriggling snakes, or are they spermatozoa?



We looked for but could not find the erotica collection - which is locked away in the museum's notorious Secret Room. (I think you have to book a special visit beforehand.) So we never did see this coupling of Pan and the nanny goat ...

6 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

I must say that sexy is not a word I would normally associate with museums Robert! However, I do love that last reclining figure.

Tramp said...

SW
You can have too much of a good thing!
...Tramp

Grace said...

Somehow I think I would enjoy this museum much more than New York's Museum of Sex (the title of your post made me think of it.) Although, to be fair, I just walked by it when I was in NYC (wasn't in the mood for it at the time, hehe).

I have a fondness for Artemis; I would have loved to see that statue.

The Solitary Walker said...

Pat - see the last comment! Some museums are sexier than you might think. There a a couple in Amsterdam, but I haven't been there, of course ...

Tramp - indeed!

Grace - there are various similar statues of Artemis all the Romano-Grecian world ...

up said...

hi, i'm looking for an image of the "primavera of stabia" of good quality: can you help me, please?
if you can please send to

upavoncello@yahoo.com

thank you.
(i beg you pardon form my english).

The Solitary Walker said...

You are quite welcome to copy this photo from my blog. It's the only one I have.