What reality is the one you seek?

Herculaneum museum reconstruction of niche original

The original—well, the original tiles reconstructed in the museum. With positively lousy lighting.

Today was Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli day. We dodged persistent raindrops getting there from a nearby train station, and discovered the museum was more of a ramble through the art objects from several Naples-area archaeological sites—especially Pompeii and Herculaneum—than a comprehensive survey.

In particular, the museum highlighted that while we have visited those sites and seen roads, sidewalks, walls, and floors, many of the decorations we’ve seen have been copies, while the originals were removed to this institution for safe-keeping—beginning in the 1700s. Well, plus some of the architecture has been reconstructed (rather than merely stablized), too.

Herculaneum site niche copy

The colorful copy we saw at Herculaneum. In somewhat better light.

Both of us were very glad that we saw P and H, the sites, first, and then the out-of-context artwork plopped together sometimes in a mix-and-match fashion that we found extremely disconcerting. One room, for example, had this mosaic from Herculaneum paired with tile-inlaid columns from Pompeii. Many of the displays, however, were from single rooms/residential complexes, but usually were not displayed in the order they were originally. Like I said, mix and match.

One comment

  1. Robert & Mary Jo says:

    I beg to differ. Your picture of the original in the museum seems to be much more richly colored than the copy at Herculaneum (maybe it’s the lighting!). I felt the same way when I visited the Smithsonian, just a jumble of artifacts without context. That’s why I liked the High Desert Museum, context, even if it was fake!