History and structure
The Great Hall of the Sundial dates back to 1612-1615, when it was decided to transform an unfinished sixteenth-century building, already used as the royal stable, to house, beginning from 1615, the Studi restored in the eighteenth century.
The vault is decorated with a fresco by Pietro Bardellino bearing the date 1781 and the painter’s signature, which celebrates Ferdinand IV and his wife Maria Carolina of Austria as patrons of arts.
The walls are decorated with 18 pictures illustrating the exploits of Alessandro Farnese in Flanders, painted at the end of the 17th century by G.E. Draghi and D. Piola.
The hall is named after the sundial placed on the floor. Designed by Pompeo Schiantarelli, it is made up of a brass strip among marble panels where painted medallions depicting the twelve signs of the zodiac are embedded. At local midday, the sunlight, penetrating the hole of the gnomon placed on the top in the southwesterncorner, falls on the meridian line of the floor, going along it according to the seasons.
Originally, the marble statue was probably in the Library of the Forum of Trajan in Rome and then, after being acquired by the Farnese family, came to the Museum in 1800.
Controversial is the dating of the work: some scholars date the statue to the second half of the first century BC according to a stylistic comparison with the group of Laocoon; other scholars,on the contrary, attribute it to the Antonine period and specifically to the second century AD, for the influence of the RhodianSchool.
The statue certainly derives from an original of the Hellenistic period and depicts the powerful Titan Atlas kneeling under the weight of the globe. The muscular body, accurately defined in the anatomical structure, is contracted for the huge effort.On the sphere are the oldest known depictions of the celestial vault and the Zodiac, where the colures, that is thelines of the meridians passing through the poles, are visible.
Carlo Albacini restored the head, the arms and the legs of the statue.