The Egyptian Collection in the MANN

One collection, many stories

By Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Charles III of Bourbon (1757/1757) by Filippo Morghen (engraving) and Filippo Paderni (drawing)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

"A collection worthy of a great king"

Along with its famous Pompeian antiquities and the Farnese collection, the MANN can boasts one of the most ancient Egyptian collection in Europe. The Museum's Egyptian Collection comprises some 2500 items dating from the beginning of the Dynastic era to the end of the Byzantine era (3000 BC-640 AD), some 2250 of which are on display, including some that are unique or of exceptional historical relevance. Except for a group of Egyptian and Egyptianizing objects (i.e. those that imitated Egyptian workmanship), found in excavations carried out in the time of the Bourbon kings of Naples in Pompeii, Herculaneum and various other archaeological sites in Campania during the second half of the 18th century, they were acquired between 1803 and 1917, through the acquisition of private collections, which were put together in different period, and under different circumstances, hence reflecting different collecting attittudes, tastes and cultural motivations of the collectors.

Sala 17 (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

One collection, many stories

Rooms 17 and 18 form a very full introductory section to the new exhibition layout, presenting one of the major themes of interest in the collection: the history of its formation and the position it held at various times in the exhibition of the collections of a major nineteenth-century museum with a stratified formation, always regarded as perhaps the world's most important museum of classical antiquities. It also illustrates its successive exhibit designs installed between the 19th and 20th century and

the origin of the various core collections out of which it developed, with rare and valuable testimonies of pre-Napoleonic 18th century Egyptological collecting and that of the early 19th century.

Collezione egiziana. Cronologia delle acquisizioni e degli allestimenti (2016/2016)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The timeline of acquisitions and exhibit designs of the collection shows through images how most of its core collections,and the most significant ones,were acquired during the Bourbon time period.

Sala 18 (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Staging ancient Egypt: two centuries of exhibit designs

In Room 18, a display of 18-century fakes, exemples of antique furnishings of the early exhibit designs, 19-century casts of Egyptian monuments - whose original are now kept in the Egyptian Museum of Cairo - and a gigantic reproduction of a painting by Paolo Vetri (Enna 1855 - Naples 1937), titled Museum (1875) and inspired by Giuseppe Fiorelli's installation in the post-unification period (1864-1866) - whose original is now kept in the Intesa Sanpaolo/Gallerie d’Italia Collection, Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano (Naples) - evoke the settings and the fascinating atmospheres of past museological arrangements of the collection.

Sala 18, 2010/2018, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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The gigantic reproduction of the Paolo Vetri's painting "Museo" (1875) and some specimens from the 19th century collection of Egyptian casts in the MANN

Priests of Isis (1-50 d.C)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The Bourbon and Egyptian antiquities in Campania

A number of Egyptian and Egyptianizing objects (i.e. those that imitated Egyptian workmanship) have come to light in Campania, mainly in excavations carried out from the Bourbon period onward in Roman sites along the Phlegraean and Vesuvian coast. These antiquities bear witness to the diffusion of the cults of Egyptian gods such as Isis, Anubis and Serapis ever since the late Republic. Following Augustus’ conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, these cults spread throughout the Roman Empire. It became fashionable to decorate temples, baths, houses and gardens with Egyptian objects, for cultic or merely ornamental purposes. This fashion generated a demand for locally made imitation Egyptian objects.

Figurine of a Ptolemaic queen (Tarda epoca tolemaica (I secolo a.C.))Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Ancient Egypt in the Mann before the Egyptian collection

The archaeological evidence for the presence of Egyptian and Egyptianizing objects in ancient Campania testify to the spread of Egyptian cults and objects along the coast of the region from Puteoli and Baiae to Pompeii and Sorrento  and the antiquity and continuity of relationships between Egypt and Campania since very ancient times.  Although they had been found in local archaeological contexts of the Roman period, during the second half of the 18th century these objects came to form the first core of Egyptian antiquities never owned by the Bourbon Royal House of Naples and set up in Royal Bourbon Museum. The majority of them came from Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae and other vesuvian sites where they were in use when the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD destroyed these ancient towns.

Isis, I-II secolo d. C., From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Serapis, Fine II-Inizio III secolo d.C., From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Isis (Età giulio-claudia (41-54 d.C.))Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

"Pompeian" Egypt inspiring Egyptomania

Unearthed between 1764 and 1766, the temple dedicated to the goddess Isis in Pompeii is the most significant evidence of the phenomenon of the spread of egyptian religion in ancient Campanian towns. It is perharps the unique Iseum outside Egypt whose structure and decoration was almost completely preserved and, most significantly, in antiquity it was the only one to have been entirely restored in the period between the earthquake of 62 AD and the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Made famous by 18th century travelers on the Grand Tour, along with other Egyptian and Egyptianizing objects unhearthed in Campania, in the decade 1770-1780 - hence long before Napoleon's Expedition to Egypt (1798-99) and the post-napoleonic rediscovering of the Egyptian civilization - it became a unique source of inspiration for the earliest forms of "Egittomania" in Italy and in Europe.  

Ferdinand the IV of Bourbon (first quarter of the 19th century (1807-1822)) by Antonio CanovaMuseo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

"The
king has acquired the celebrated Borgia Museum"

The History of the Egyptian collection of the MANN begins officially in 1821 when the Museum's Director, the Marquis Michele Arditi (1746-1838) set up the "Portico of Egyptian Things" within the framework of the first general reorganization of the entire Museum . The Naples Museum became perhaps the first in Europe to boast a sizeable Egyptian section. Between 1803 and 1814 the Farnese Naophore, together with two Farnese statues of Isis in her hellenistic iconography, and the famous Egyptian collection of the 18-century Museum of the cardinal Stefano Borgia from Velletri, sold by the Cardinal's nephew Camillo to Giocchino Murat, King of Naples during the napoleonic "French decade" (1806-1815), were added to the section’s original nucleus of objects from Bourbon excavations in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Pozzuoli. Restored on the throne in 1815 after the fall of the Napoleonic Kingdom, Ferdinand the IV of Bourbon, later on Ferdinad the I King of the Two Sicilies, claimed the purchase of the famous Borgia collection.

Statua naoforo di Uahibramerineit, XXVI dinastia (664-525 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Statua di Iside, 2010/2018, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Statua di Iside-Fortuna, 2010/2018, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Statua naoforo del Principe, Portasigilli regale Uah-ib-ra Mery-Neith, figlio di Ta-qerenet ("Naoforo Farnese") (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The Farnese Naophore

The statue of the "Noble, Prince, royal seal-beares, close friend (of the king), Director of the House of the Two Crowns, Priest of Horus, Head of the Dep District, Superintendent of the Seals, Wahibramerineit, son of Taqerenet", dating back to the XXVIth dynasty (664-525 BC), is one of the first Egyptian monuments to enter the Naples Museum, whose inventories attest to its presence as early as 1803. The naophore is a category of sculpture typical of Egyptian sculpture that make its first appearance in the New kingdom and is attested until the 30th dynasty. It represents generally a standing or a kneeling a figure of a man - being an official or a priest - holding in front of himself a small shrine containig a divine figure - here Osiris - or divine emblems. The name and titles of the owner of the statue, sculpted as usual on the back pillar of the statue,  is reported in the form of the "saitic formula" (from the name of the XXVIth dynasty capital, Sais, in the Delta), which the faithful prayed for the protection and the well-being of their city-god.

Naoforo Farnese (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The Naophore in the Farnese collection

While the history of the Naophore after its arrival at the Naples Museum is well known, it is not clear when and under what circumstances the sculpture came into the possession of the Farnese family. From 1566 on the majority of inventories attest to its presence in the "Room of the Emperors" in the  Palazzo Farnese in Campo dei Fiori ( Rome) where it is described again in the 18th century in  "L’antichità di Roma" by Giacomo Pinarolo. Around the second half of the 17th century, the statue was placed in the "wardrobe" of the Palazzo, were it was studied and depicted by the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) who, confused by his own drawing of it, interpreted it as the figure of Isis bearing the image of a “canonic numen”. In the Naples Museum, it was originally placed first in the "Portico de' Miscellanei"  and then in the "Gallery of Colored Marbles", before finding, in 1821, its definitive place in the "Portico of Egyptian Things, since then becoming an integral part of the Museum's Egyptian Section.

La Sezione egiziana in epoca borbonica. (2015/2015)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Egyptian antiquities and
collecting

The Bourbon phase in the history of the Egyptian collection saw the largest increase in the quantity of materials, with the acquisition of various core collections different in size and kinds of objects. In 1821, the 18th-century Borgia collection came to form the most important core of the newly established "Portico of Egyptian Monuments". For the Bourbon Royal House the acquisition of this collection became a welcome occasion to increase the its dynastic prestige by developing the Museum according the most recent European trends. The Egyptian collection continued to grow until 1917 through the incorporation of several purchased or donated collections and individual objects. The addition of two steles donated in 1825 by H.R.H the Duke of Calabria, the small Hogg collection recently identified, the Schnars collection and the gilded heads of mummies from Thebes donated by the traveler Rudhart are interesting episodes in the formation of the collection. But  the most significant new addition in this period was the 19th-century collection of the Florentine Giuseppe Picchianti and his wife, the Venetian Countess Angelica Drosso acquired between 1827 and1828. 

Funerary stela dedicated by Hat to his grandparents and parents, Nuovo Regno, regno di Tutmosi III o Amenofi II, 1440-1390 a.C. ca., From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Stela of Amenhotep nicknamed Huy, scribe of the table and director of the festival of Osiris, Nuovo Regno, XIX dinastia, intorno al regno di Seti I (1292-1279 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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"Bust" of a priest of Amon (XXVI dinastia (664-525 a.C.))Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Collecting Egyptian antiquities during the 18th century

Characteristic expressions of the prevalent cultural attitudes to Egyptian antiquities in their respective formative periods, the Borgia collection and the Picchianti's one makes the Neapolitan collection a valuable record of the history of Egyptological collecting in 18th and 19th centuries.

Largely shaped by the reading of Greek and Latin classic and models of classical sculpture, the Borgia collection is a remarkable testimony of the 18th century’s perception of ancient Egypt before Napoleon’s expedition (1798-1799). Along with a few forgeries, it includes almost all the sculptures now in the Egyptian collection of the MANN, among which statues reduced to portrait busts or heads, to create works evidently recalling classical sculpture and more closely matching the 18th-century collecting taste. It also comprises  a number of funerary and religious objects, mostly from the Delta and the Memphite region, which were more easily accessible to 18th-century Europeans.

"Portrait" of a royal chancellor, XXVII dinastia (525-404 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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"Portrait" of a royal chancellor, XXVII dinastia (525-404 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Portrait statue in the form of a "bust", XXVII dinastia (525-404 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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La Sezione egiziana in epoca borbonica. (2015/2015)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Collecting Egyptian antiquities  during the 19th century

The Picchianti collection is a typical testimony of the early 19th-century antiquarian tradition and as such offers an interesting contrast to the 18th-century Borgia collection. The collection is mostly formed of funerary objects, expecially mummies, coffins, canopic vases, and shabties of various periods. It also includes some everyday-use objects placed in tombs as grave-goods such as food and cosmetics conteiners, mirrors, sandals etc., which were lacking in the Egyptian collections of previous centuries. Picchianti’s collection reflects the typically European 19th-century romantic taste for the exotic and macabre, inspired by the huge cultural impact of the Napoleonic Expedition to Egypt (1798-99) and the news of the sensational finds made there by famous adventurers of the time, especially the Paduan Giovanbattista Belzoni.

Cylindrical vase, I-III dinastia (3000-2613 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Globulare vase, I-III dinastia (3000-2613 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Ritratto del Cardinale Stefano Borgia (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The Borgia collection

The Borgia collection was started in the late 17th century by Clemente Erminio Borgia, who gathered objects found near Rome and Velletri in his family residence. In the second half of the 18th century, Cardinal Stefano Borgia augmented the collection considerably and was thus able to establish up a true private museum.

Stefano Borgia, born in Velletri in 1731, had a keen interest in history and antiquary. His political and ecclesiastical activities, as Secretary and later Prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, offered him opportunities to pursue his interest in the collecting of ancient objects, and the acquiring of Oriental antiquities through an increasing number of missionaries sent in countries where other religions had prevailed. He was thus able to transform the core collection into a treasure trove of artifacts “from the four corners of the world.” and to acquire a great quantity of Coptic manuscripts and much earlier objects brought back from Egypt with them, putting together the most complete Egyptian collection of his time. 

Fragment of the box of the sarcophagus of Pairkap, overseer of the council room (XXVIII-XXX dinastia (404-343 a.C.))Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Stefano Borgia’s museum-home and the Danes

The museum-house of the Borgia family was a Grand Tour stopover for travelers going from Rome to Naples. It stood at the corner between present-day Via Borgia and Via della Trinità, and displayed all of 14 different classes of materials, including Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan, Arab, and Indian antiquities, arranged inside credenzoni (cupboards). The exhibition featured the traditional “harmonious arrangement” of objects.

A testimony of Encyclopedic culture, the Velletri museum-house had not been created to induce “wonder,” like seventeenth-century Wunderkammern; rather, it was an environment where objects were studied according to innovative scientific criteria.



In 1779, a long and fruitful collaboration between Borgia and Denmark began, whereby the museum “was largely given over to the Danes,” including Jacob Georg Christian Adler (1756-1834), a theologian who was interested in the study of Coptic as a key to the ancient Egyptian language. In 1794, the mineralogist Gregers Wad (1755-1832) studied the Egyptian monuments in the Borgia collection, publishing the Fossilia Egyptiaca Musei Borgiani Velitris (1794). Georg Zoëga (1755-1809) relationship with the Cardinal was one of deep reciprocal respect and intimacy.

Statua di funzionario, denominata “dama di Napoli” (III dinastia (2686-2613 a.C.))Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The Borgia Collection from Velletri to Naples

 After Stefano Borgia’s death in 1804, his collection was dismembered and divided between the Congregation of Propaganda Fide and the Cardinal’s nephew, Camillo Borgia. After early attempts to sell it to the king of Denmark, that were blocked by the Pope’s veto, in 1814 Camillo sold the collection to Joachim Murat, king of Naples.



The Naples museum thus acquired the whole Velletri collection, including its Egyptian section. It comprised 628 objects of various types, including shabtis, small and middle-sized sculptures –among which were some valuable specimens, such as the “Dama di Napoli” and the Monument of Amenemone –, coffins, bronzes, and also a few fakes.

Monument to Amenemone, XIX dinastia, regno di Ramses II (1279-1213 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Monument to Amenemone, XIX dinastia, regno di Ramses II (1279-1213 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Monument to Amenemone, XIX dinastia, regno di Ramses II (1279-1213 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Map of Egypt (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Travelers
and collectors in nineteenth-century Egypt

Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt (1798-99), although a military failure, had a huge cultural impact in Europe. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone in (1799) and the subsequent decipherment of hieroglyphs (1821-22), the publication of the monumental Description de l’Égypte (1809-1828), followed by I Monumenti dell'Egitto e della Nubia ( 1832-44) by Ippolito Rosellini and the Denkmaeler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien (1849-58) by Carl Richard Lepsius, and the news of sensational finds in the Nile Valley sparked the interest of Europeans in pharaonic civilization, leading to a systematic exploration of the country and its antiquities and a growing demand for ancient objects.  Cairo saw the rise of a flourishing antiquities market for avid seekers of treasures bought on the spot. The hope of easy gains in the antiquities trade drew very different figures – explorers, collectors, and adventurers, including some Italians, such as the renowned Belzoni who made sensational discoveries in Egypt and Nubia. The sale of collections put together in Egypt at the time led to the formation of the nineteenth-century Egyptian sections that we admire in European museums. This is the context in which Giuseppe Picchianti put together his own collection, an important testimony of the antiquarian tradition of the nineteenth century, contrasting sharply with the eighteenth-century tradition documented by the Borgia collection.

Tempio di Karnak, Sala ipostila, 2010/2018, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Abu Simbel. Veduta del tempio rupestre di Ramesse II, 2010/2018, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Giza. Veduta delle Piramidi di Cheope, Chefren e Micerino (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The Picchianti- Drosso Collection

In 1827, the Venician Countess Angelica Drosso Picchianti and the Florentine Giuseppe Picchianti offered for sale to the Royal Bourbon Museum a “collection of Egyptian monuments of various kinds” put together in Egypt during a ten-year journey, which archive documents place between 1814 and 1825. We lack biographical information about the two and only few clues survive about the itinerary they followed in Egypt. Picchianti only mentions a few stopovers along the Nile Valley, all the way to the stretch between the Third and Fourth Cataract: Giza, Saqqara, Thebes, and faraway Dongola in Sudanese Nubia, which Picchianti managed to reach in those years possibly by joining an Egyptian military expedition. Here he collected various objects, mostly from tombs, including grave goods and human and animal mummies.

Kohol vase, New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Kohol vase, New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Painted inner coffin and female mummy, Terzo Periodo Intermedio, fine XXI- inizio XXII dinastia (959-924 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Vaso di Ptahmose, gran sacerdote di Pthah (XVIII dinastia, regno di Amenofi III (1390-1352 a.C.))Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Collectors are not archaeologists

The information Picchianti gives about the circumstances of the discovery of objects in most cases can be incorrect, and hence suggests that, at least in part, the exhibits came from excavationa by third parties or even purchases on the local antiquities market. Confirmation is provided by the presence in the collection of objects of several ancient Egyptian tomb owners, whose tomb dating back to the New Kingdom at Saqqara and Tebe supplied materials to several collectors, such as Passalacqua, the energetic Nizzoli and D'Anasthasi, and the Picchiantis in that period. The jar of the "Sem Priest Pthamose, great master of the crafsman" -  whose materials are kept in several collections in Europe (at least Leida, Florence and Naples) - is a testimony of the dismembering and dispersal of grave-good from a same tomb.

Document (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

Picchianti, Champollion, and the Bourbons

The Picchianti collection reached Leghorn in 1825, at the time when Jean-François Champollion was there for the purchase of the Salt collection. Here it was apparently examined by the French scholar, since an anonymous document of 22 February 1826 credits him with brief observations about some of the objects. Once in Italy, Picchianti tried to sell his collection to the king of Saxony, before offering it to the Royal Museum, which, after long-drawn negotiations, purchased only part of it, on 7 March 1828. Dissatisfied with the sale, a month later Picchianti donated the remaining objects on condition that he be hired by the museum as keeper and restorer of Egyptian antiquities. In this capacity, he performed several restorations on the mummies of the museum.  The last evidence of his presence in Naples dates from 1834, after which we lose track of him.The arrival of the Picchianti collection was the occasion to clear out most of the non-Egyptian materials previourly exhibited in the Egyptian Section, as decided by a special appointed Committee.

Isola di File. Veduta delle rovine (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The Hogg collection

In 1833 the Bourbon Museum received a small collection donated by a "dottore inglese", actually a native of Glasgow named James Edward Hogg (1783-1848). In 1832-33, he made a trip to Egypt in the retinue of Ibrahim Pasha, when probably picked up the relics he later donated partly to the Naples Museum in 1833 and partly to the British Museum in 1840.  During his journey to Egypt he visited the tombs of Beni Hasan, the Temple of Dendera, Tebe, the temples of Karnak and Luxor, even reaching Philae, and finally Wadi Halfa.This collection, previously unknown and recently identified along with the identity of the collector, originally consisted of 10 "bundles" (animal mummies, two headrest and a scribal tablet).

Poggiatesta in legno stuccato e dipinto, Nuovo Regno (1550-1069 a.C.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Headrest, Nuovo Regno (1550-1069), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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La Sezione egiziana in epoca borbonica. (2015/2015)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The setting of the "Portico of Egyptian Things"

 The museographic history
of the section is as interesting as that of its formation.  Innovative and original for its time,  Arditi's project planned to arrange the different collections of the Museum on chronological, geographical and cultural criteria, so illustrating the timeline of civilizations through the material sequence of the display. Since Egypt was seen as the fountainhead of modern Western culture,
according to Arditi, Egyptian antiquities were "the first link in the
chain of antiquity". 

The layout of Arditi's installation (1821-1860)

The first exhibition
of the collection in the portico of the east courtyard of the Naples Museum (presently
known as
the “Hall of the Tyrannicides”) featured nineteenth-century scenographic
and
allegorical devices, including two marble and bronze ibises from
Herculaneum on the top of columns were set on both sides of a door while
two modern crocodile skins were displayed above the entrance.
This scenographic approach was retained through subsequent
modifications, until
1864, when Giuseppe Fiorelli had the section moved to the rooms where it
is
presently housed. A total of 692 objects were arranged in eight cabinets on the plints of the perimetral wall, running the whole lenght of the longer sides, wile the few items of larger size were placed on the floor in the middle of the room  

Vetrina con decorazione egittizzante (XIX secolo (1821))Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

18th and 19th century fakes

Copies and imitations of ancient objects, such as those displayed here, are a familiar presence in collections of antiquities; works that long attracted the interest and admiration of collectors, scholars and the public have often been recognized as false.

There are various reasons for this: Roman copies of Greek, Oriental or Egyptian works; the various expressions of the rediscovery of antiquity in the Renaissance; the many copies made of noble materials or gypsum from the eighteenth century onward, mainly for didactic or decorative purposes; all these reproductions, even when they sometimes fell just short of counterfeit, answered a need for “cultural appropriation”, as well as the changing demands of the antiquities market. There is no dearth, however, of fakes actually made to deceive.

This showcase contains a small group of fakes produced in the eighteenth or early nineteenth century (Ns. 1-13), almost all in the Borgia collection. Together with imitations and forgeries of Egyptian antiquities the Borgia collection includes some objects relating to other Near Eastern civilizations (Syro-Palestinian, Mesopotamian, Phoenician, Ns. 14-19) and Etruscan objects (Ns. 23-26), mistaken for Egyptian and inserted in the inventory of the "class of Egyptian monuments" in the Borgiano Museum.

Testa femminile [vetrina antica], XVIII secolo, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Calamaio a forma di babbuino [vetrina antica], XVIII secolo, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Uscebti [vetrina antica], XIX secolo, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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La Sezione egiziana in epoca borbonica. (2015/2015)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

A 19th-century "pastiche"

This picture by the engraver Raffaele Morghen, published in A. Morelli, Musée Royal Bourbon. Vues et descriptions des galeries, Naples 1835, accurately portrays the Egyptian Section as it
appeared in the Bourbon period, between 1821 and 1860. Two of the mummies in the
picture, displayed on the back wall, on both sides of a door, in a very scenic presentation
accentuated by the décor of the room, are fakes assembled in the Bourbon museum
in the early nineteenth century with fragments from two Neapolitan pharmacies,
that of the Monastery of San Francesco di Paola and that of the Most Holy Royal
House of the Annunziata. Presumably, however, the intent was not to deceive;
rather, this was a somewhat unorthodox nineteenth-century restoration inspired
by a wish to display whole pieces.

In 16 December 1821, to “further enhance the prestige of the new
gallery,” the director of the Royal Museum at the time, Michele Arditi, asked to
be assigned two bodies which at the time were kept in the Naples Royal
Mineralogical Museum. Being very poorly preserved, the mummies were entrusted
to the care of the restorers Domenico Padiglione and Raffaele Gargiulo who, in
1824, merged them with the “mummy bones” from the pharmacy of the Annunziata.
The bodies thus reassembled were then placed in the two Borgia coffins, which were
empty. Today the mummies are still kept in these coffins (one of which is
displayed in Room XXI) due to a resinous substance that makes them impossible
to remove without seriously damaging the coffin boxes.

Engraving by Raffaele Morghen. Detail depicting the two "fake" mummies in the Borgia sarcophagi on the back wall of the Egyptian Section, as displayed during the Bourbon Period.

Mummia, 2010/2018, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Historical photograph of Giuseppe Fiorelli's layout (1864-1866). Room 23. One of the two "fake" mummies as displayed in the "mummy room" from 1866 to 1906.

Sala 18 (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The Egyptian
section after the unity of Italy (1864-1908)

The gigantic reproduction of the Paolo Vetri's painting "Museo" (1875) in Room 18 is a faithful rendering of the post-Unification period exhibit design, depicting its layout and the polichromy, now lost,of the wall decorations. Under the directorship of Giuseppe Fiorelli (1863-1875), the Egyptian collection was incorporated into a larger "Section of Oriental Antiquities." Between 1864 and 1866, architect Michele Ruggiero designed a new installation of the collection in two rooms in the basement, whose vaulted ceilings were considered to be “in keeping with the style of the monuments.” In line with the museological criteria of the time, painter Ignazio Perricci decorated the rooms with motifs inspired by the decorations of Egyptian tombs of different periods. At the back of the gallery, a niche aligned with the entrance housed human and animal mummies, the main attraction of the exhibition. The compelling scenic relationship between the objects and their architectural background emphasized the spectacular character of the installation rather than the artifacts per se. Appealing to the funereal vision of Egyptian civilization prevailing in the West at the time, the installation recreated the mysterious atmosphere of an underground tomb and thus indulged non-scholarly perceptions of ancient Egypt and the Romantic fascination with the exotic and the macabre.

Iside, 1885/1885, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Historical photograph of Giuseppe Fiorelli's layout (1864-1866). Room 22. In the foreground the statue of Isis from Pompeii.

Sarcofago "Stevens", 1885/1885, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Historical photograph of Giuseppe Fiorelli's layout (1864-1866). Room 22. In the foreground the sarcophagus of Ankhhapy I.N. 114.313. Stevens collection

Coffin, cartonnage and mummy of Ankhhapy, son of Harsiese and of the Mistress of the House Tjehenet (?), inizio Epoca Tolemaica (332-200 a.C. ca.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Coffin, cartonnage and mummy of Ankhhapy, son of Harsiese and of the Mistress of the House Tjehenet (?), inizio Epoca Tolemaica (332-200 a.C. ca.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Coffin, cartonnage and mummy of Ankhhapy, son of Harsiese and of the Mistress of the House Tjehenet (?), inizio Epoca Tolemaica (332-200 a.C. ca.), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Sale egizie. Ingresso (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The Egyptian collection between the 19th and 20th century

Over the time the new arrangement led to problems with conservation of the materials and accessibility to the collection. A project for a new entrance, the one now in place, leading to the collection, was realized between 1881 and 1889 by Renato De Petra, who had taken over from Fiorelli as the Museum's Director. After the new entrance staircase was added, in 1885 a collection of plaster casts of Egyptian and Assyrian works was put on display in rooms 17 and 18. Apart from these changes, the layout of the Egyptian gallery did not undergo substantial modifications until the early twentieth century. Between the directorship of Ettore Pais (1901-1904) and that of Giovanni Gattini (1906-1908) the collection was moved into five rooms (17-19 plus two rooms currently used as storage spaces). Described accurately in the 1908 Guida Ruesh, the new arrangement appears not to have rested on any scholarly principle.

Sala 18 (particolare), 2010/2018, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Historical photograph of the layout of the Egyptian collection between 1885 and 1904. Room 18. Obelisks fragments, sculptures and plaster casts

Sala 23, 2010/2018, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Historical photo of Room 23. The Egyptianizing decoration of the vaulted ceilings was still in place when the room, between 1906 and 1908, was used for the installation of the Prehistoric collection.

Sala 19, 2010/2018, From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Historical photograph of Room 19. Giovanni Gattini's layout of the Egyptian collection (1906-1908). On the back wall the new display of the mummies of the collection.

Sala 17 (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

A collection of plaster casts of Egyptian monuments from the Cairo Museum

In 1870, on the eve of the International Congress of Prehistoric Anthropology, Minister of Education Cesare Correnti wrote to Luigi Vassalli – a painter and capable Egyptologist who had been collaborating with Auguste Mariette since 1859 in the Bulaq Museum - the first museum of Egyptian antiquities in Cairo – asking him to send Egyptian materials to Italy. Since at the time the export of antiquities from Egypt was not allowed, between March and May 1871 Vassalli, with the assistance of restorer Michel Ange Floris, made casts of stelae and wall reliefs. At the end of July, he wrote to the minister, proposing actions to be undertaken to develop Italian Egyptological collections. He thus received his first assignment. In 1873, having visited the Egyptian collections of Bologna, Turin, Florence, Naples, and Rome, he published I musei egizi d'Italia, where he proposed expanding Egyptian galleries, drawing up general catalogues, and instituting chairs of Egyptology.

Calco di falsa porta del sacerdote uab Scery, XIX secolo (1871-1874), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Calco di un pannello ligneo del “Sovrintendente degli scribi reali” Hesyra, XIX secolo (1871-1874), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Calco del bassorilievo di Psammetico Nefersamon, XIX secolo (1871-1874), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Calco della statua della dea Iside, XIX secolo (1871-1874), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Calco della statua della dea Hathor che protegge l’alto dignitario Psammetico, XIX secolo (1871-1874), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Calco della statua del dio Osiride, XIX secolo (1871-1874), From the collection of: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
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Impronta cartacea di un calco conservato a Napoli (2010/2018)Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

The Egyptian casts in the MANN and Ernesto Schiaparelli

The correspondence between Minister Ruggero Bonghi and the director of the Naples Archaeological Museum, Giuseppe Fiorelli, mentions the sending to Naples in 1874 of 179 casts from the Gallery of the Florence Academy, where Prof. Casaglia had made three practically identical series of plaster casts made from Vassalli’s paper casts, which were used to integrate the Egyptian collections of Turin and Florence, as well as Naples. Ten years later, in 1884, Ernesto Schiaparelli, then director of the Egyptian Museum of Florence, produced a first classification of these casts, of which he also made some sanguigna-pencil tracings.This little-known episode in the collection's history emphasizes its importance among Italian and European Egyptological collections and its relation with the nascent Italian Egyptology

Credits: Story

Photographs: Giorgio Albano, Luigi Spina, Salvatore Granata,Mario Ciampi,Luciano Pedicini

Texts: Rita Di Maria, Rosanna Pirelli, Caterina Cozzolino, Stefania Mainieri, Massimiliana Pozzi Battaglia

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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