Farnese Collection  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Farnese Collection[1] was a collection of ancient art that belonged to the House of Farnese. It is now part of the core of the Naples National Archaeological Museum and its adjacent secret museum. The collection includeded engraved gems (the Farnese Cup and other pieces from "Treasure of the Magnificent"). An important part of the collection are the marble sculptures known as the Farnese Marbles.

Many of the items were fomerly on display at the Villa Farnese, the Palazzo Farnese and the Villa Farnesina.


Farnese Marbles

Venus Kallipygos, Pan and Daphnis

The Farnese Marbles are a group of classical sculptures that form part of the Farnese Collection which can be seen in the National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archaeologico Nazionale) in Naples. One of the reasons for their importance is that they include Roman copies of classical Greek sculpture[2], which are in many cases the only surviving indications of what the work of ancient Greek sculptors such as Kalamis, Kritius and Nesiotes were like as the Greek originals have been lost.

Notable works include the Roman Farnese Bull, the largest known sculpture from classical antiquity, the sculpture 'Harmodius and Aristogeiton', a Roman copy of a bronze work that once stood in the Agora of Athens, the Farnese Artemis, again a Roman copy of a Greek original, a collection of busts of Roman emperors, and another set of Roman sculptures (again mainly copies of Greek work) that once stood in the Baths of Caracalla in Rome.

Venus Kallipygos

Venus Kallipygos, Pan and Daphnis

The Venus Kallipygos as we have it is a Roman work in marble, dating to the late 1st century BC. It is considered to be a copy or "paraphrase" of an older Greek statue, probably bronze. This lost original is thought to have been created around 300 BC, near the inception of the Hellenistic era. Its sculptor and provenance are unknown. It was rediscovered, missing its head, in Rome by at least the 16th century. It is sometimes said to have been found in the ruins of Emperor Nero's Domus Aurea, though this is unlikely as fragments uncovered there contained no evidence of high-quality artworks such as the Venus.

The missing head was reconstructed in the 16th century; a more thorough reconstruction was undertaken by Carlo Albacini in the late 18th century. The restorers decided to have the figure look over her shoulder at her own buttocks, a choice that gave the Venus its distinctive pose and had a significant effect on later interpretations of the work. The statue was acquired by the Farnese family and was in the Palazzo Farnese by 1594; it may be the draped Venus described as being in the palace by visitors earlier that century. In the 17th century it is known to have been kept in the palace's Sala dei Filosophi, where it stood surrounded by statues of eighteen ancient philosophers. In 1731 the Farnese estate was inherited by Charles of Bourbon, who moved some of the marbles, including the Venus, across the Tiber River to the Villa Farnesina.

In 1786 the Bourbons decided to move the Venus Kallipygos to Naples with the rest of the Farnese collection. First, however, it was sent to be restored by Carlo Albacini. Responding to contemporary criticisms of some of the statue's features, Albacini replaced the head, the arms, and one leg; he followed the previous restoration fairly faithfully in having the figure look back over her shoulder. By 1792 the statue was at the Museum of Capodimonte in Naples, and by 1802 it was in the Museo degli Studi, now the Naples National Archaeological Museum, where it remains.

Pan and Daphnis

Pan and Daphnis

Pan and Daphnis (or Pan teaching his eromenos Daphnis to play the panpipes) is a marble, Roman copy after a Greek original from the 3rd-2nd centuries BCE by Heliodoros. It used to be in the Farnese Collection but is now housed at the Naples Archeological Museum (Inv. 6329). H. 1.58 m (5 ft. 2 in.).

Charles III of Spain inherited it from his mother Elisabeth Farnese.

It is a sculpture of Pan teaching his eromenos, the shepherd Daphnis, to play the panpipes; ca. 100 B.C.


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