Dick's Pics

By RichardDonkin

Roman fishes

I don't usually blip pictures of pictures but I was bowled over by the quality of the mosaics from Pompeii and the surrounding area, recovered after they were buried for centuries by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

Almost all have been removed from the site and most now sit in the Naples Archeological Museum. The museum has one of the finest collections of statuary and mosaics from the ancient world, yet the building and displays are in desperate need of improved curation and display. Some important rooms were closed because of a lack of staff - lack of money, frankly.

There was still plenty to see, however. Most people go there for the Pompeii relics and the so-called "secret room" that houses the sex scenes etc. But some of the best stuff are relics uncovered at two sites, The Baths of Caracalla in Rome and The Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum. The bronzes from the latter are quite simply astonishing. The marble statues from the baths - better know as the Farnese collection - are mostly Roman copies of lost Greek originals. The Farnese bull detailed here is the largest single sculpture to be recovered from antiquity.

The collections need investment to make them more accessible. A few days earlier when we were in Capri we saw a natural arch covered in scaffolding in a restoration project funded by the EU. It must be costing millions yet I can't help thinking that, while the arch is an interesting natural feature, trying to save it is a bit like King Canute commanding the incoming tide to retreat. I would have thought that the money would be far better channelled in to cultural heritage such as the Naples collections.

We're so glad we took in the museum since it enriched the visits to Herculaneum and Pompeii by some measure. I can see why artefacts have been removed from these sites but it would add much to the experience of visitors if copies could be restored to the places where they were found. Sadly, a lot of the artefacts from Pompeii were removed in the 18th and 19th century without people bothering to record where they found them. Things have changed for the better but there's still much to do in what is one of the world's great heritage sites. Shooting most of the tour guides would be a start.

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