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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Meridian Hall

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This is the Meridian Hall at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.  Originally intended, at the time of the original attempt at construction in 1615, to house a public library:

The room underwent transformations between 1790 and 1793, when it was decided to install an Astronomic Observatory in the North-West wing at the suggestion of the astronomer Giuseppe Casella. However, the project was soon abandoned and only the meridian on the floor was built, giving the room its name. Designed by Pompeo Schiantarelli and over 27 metres long, it consists of a brass strip arranged between marble panels in which beautiful painted medallions are set depicting the twelve signs of the zodiac. At midday local time, the sunlight enters the hole of the gnomon placed high up in the South-West corner and its rays strike the meridian line of the floor, running along it according to the season.

The room housed a dinner of leaders of the G7 group of industrialised nations in 1994.

Posted by bigblue on 30/09/2010 at 08:20 AM
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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Vesuvian sunset

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Looking across the Bay of Naples.

Posted by bigblue on 29/09/2010 at 08:06 AM
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Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Pompeii

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We spent an interesting day in Pompeii wandering around the ruins. It was a hot languid day and we took our time, drinking frequently from water bottles that we took with us. The photograph above is of one of the victims of the eruption of 79AD which buried the city in ash. In the eruption Pliny the Elder died while attempting to rescue inhabitants, as admiral of the Imperial Fleet. His nephew Pliny the Younger wrote one contemporary account of the event.

During early excavations of the site, occasional voids in the ash layer had been found that contained human remains. It was Fiorelli who realized these were spaces left by the decomposed bodies and so devised the technique of injecting plaster into them to perfectly recreate the forms of Vesuvius’s victims. What resulted were highly accurate and eerie forms of the doomed Pompeiani who failed to escape, in their last moment of life, with the expression of terror often quite clearly visible. This technique is still in use today, with a clear resin now used instead of plaster because it is more durable, and does not destroy the bones, allowing further analysis.

Fiorelli, refers to Giuseppe Fiorelli the fifth or sixth leader of the excavations.  Even animal remains were found, and the cast below is of a dog that archaeologists believe was chained outside the house of Vesonius Primus, a Pompeiian fuller.

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Some of the houses at Pompeii have a mosaic of a dog at the entrance, and the words cave canem, or beware of the dog in Latin.

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Parts of the ruins have been “restored” at some time in the past (see above) and there were announcements of impending restorations in other places, but I still got the impression that the ruins had been somewhat neglected over the past century and a half.

Posted by bigblue on 28/09/2010 at 08:08 AM
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Monday, 27 September 2010
An Italian Courtyard

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At the Museo Archeologico in Naples, the most important archaeological museum in Italy. It was originally a cavalry barracks, and then housed the University of Naples from 1616 to 1777. There’s an excellent guide to the museum here.

The museum holds the so-called Secret Cabinet, of erotic frescoes which were retrieved from Pompeii.

Throughout ancient Pompeii, erotic frescoes, depictions of the god Priapus, sexually explicit symbols, inscriptions, and even household items (such as phallic oil lamps) were found. Ancient Roman culture had a different sense of shame for sexuality, and viewed sexually explicit material very differently to most present-day cultures. Ideas about obscenity developed from the 18th century to the present day into a modern concept of pornography. Although the excavation of Pompeii was initially an Enlightenment project, once artifacts were classified through a new method of taxonomy, those deemed obscene and unsuitable for the general public were termed pornography and in 1819 they were locked away in a Secret Museum. For good measure, the doorway was bricked up in 1849 (Garcia y Garcia et al. 2001). At Pompeii, locked metal cabinets were constructed over erotic frescos, which could be shown, for a modest additional fee, to gentlemen but not to ladies. This peep show was still in operation at Pompeii in the 1960s. The cabinet was only accessible to “people of mature age and respected morals”, which in practice meant only educated males. The catalogue of the secret museum was also a form of censorship, where engravings and descriptive texts played down the content of the room.

From Wikipedia, which reminds us that the practice of locking away “erotic” objects was also practised by the British Museum in London.

Posted by bigblue on 27/09/2010 at 08:34 AM
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Thursday, 23 September 2010
Vesuvius

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As seen from the sea. Vesuvius, according to Wikipedia

is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. They were never rebuilt, although surviving townspeople and probably looters did undertake extensive salvage work after the destructions. The towns’ locations were eventually forgotten until their accidental rediscovery in the 18th century.

The eruption also changed the course of the Sarno River and raised the sea beach, so that Pompeii was now neither on the river nor adjacent to the coast. Vesuvius itself underwent major changes – its slopes were denuded of vegetation and its summit changed considerably due to the force of the eruption.

Vesuvius has erupted many times since and is today regarded as one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the population of 3,000,000 people living nearby and its tendency towards explosive (Plinian) eruptions. It is the most densely populated volcanic region in the world.

Posted by bigblue on 23/09/2010 at 08:34 AM
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Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Nisida Island

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This is the Isola di Nsida, a volcanic islet off Cape Posillipo, near Naples. According to Googlehacks:

The tiny island off the tip of Cape Posillipo is named Nisida. The original Greek settlers of the area called this small island Nesis. The Romans called it Nisida. It is here that Brutus plotted the assassination of Julius Caesar, and it is here that Cicero says apud illum multas horas in Néside—that he had a long talk with Brutus after the assassination to discuss the future of Rome. In the 1800s Nisida was the site of a Bourbon prison, then an Italian state penitentiary.

It is currently a juvenile prison, housing some 40 inmates.  In 2007 the director Lara Lastelli created a movie Nisida, Growing in Prison:

Some forty young people aged 14 to 21 are held in the Nisida Island prison off Naples. They make masks to protect their identity during the filming. Paradoxically, these masks help a close relationship to grow with three of them. Enzo, Rosario and Samir live with prison life day after day. They talk about their daily routine of school and work, boredom and confinement. Over the months of filming, they tell us the stories of their lives, sharing moments of sadness and hope. Through their eyes, Lara Rastelli explores the meaning of “educational” remand.

From a French site that announced the film.

Posted by bigblue on 22/09/2010 at 08:10 AM
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Tuesday, 21 September 2010
A window in a window

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In a gelateria in Naples.

Posted by bigblue on 21/09/2010 at 08:47 AM
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Monday, 20 September 2010
Illicit Art

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Diego Miedo is an artist from Naples who is responsible for some of the art which appears on the walls of the city (and other cities around Europe). He is quoted on the illicitexhibitions blog as writing:

I’ve been drawing since I was born ...... I started doing it on the street about ten years ago. I was born and live in Naples. It is also the best place to draw: good climate, cheap, beautiful girls and it’s also a great source of inspiration.

I try to work with more people who can respect all the people from the city. Above all, I try not to do it for fashion.

I love studying, reading, travelling, talking to people and observing their movements, working with children, reading old comic books, seeing very old cartoons and smoking joints.

Street art is good anywhere; you need to be at peace with yourself and with others.

At the moment, my projects are still trying to awaken the minds of Neapolitans with my drawings and cartoons.

He has put up some photos of his own work on Flickr.

Posted by bigblue on 20/09/2010 at 08:25 AM
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