Neoptolemus and Achilles or Astyanax and Troilo
The marble group of Severian Age (third century AD) was found in the Baths of Caracalla, in 1787 it was moved to the town hall of Naples, from where it was transferred to the Museum in 1826 in order to ensure a better conservation.
The group is made up of a warrior, with a vigorous naked body, wearing a chlamys hooked behind his back and a sword on his left side, moving forward and carrying on his shoulders the body of a young boy wounded in the chest. The warrior’s left hand is gripping the right foot of the young boy in the act of throwing him away. The group represents a heroic subject and it might depict Achilles and Troilo, or Neoptolemus and Astyanax.
The interpretation is made difficult by heavy works of restoration carried out in the 16th century by G.B. Della Porta and culminated in the addition of a modern head depicting Commodus nearly to confirm the emperor’s cruelty.
Heracles at rest
The statue, dating back to the end of the second century or the beginning of the third century AD, was found in the Baths of Caracalla and, acquired by Paul II Farnese, was exhibited at the MANN only in the 19th century.
Hercules is depicted as a mature man, naked, with a powerful build accurately defined in the anatomical details. The sculpture, which was probably completed with Hercules’ son, Telephus, is an enlarged copy of a bronze sculpture by Lisippos.
At the time of the discovery, the statue did not have its left hand and forearm (now in plaster) and its legs, which were rebuilt by Guglielmo Della Porta, a disciple of Michelangelo.
When the original legs were found, it was decided not to replace the restored ones, because they were considered to be of better workmanship. Only at the end of the 18th century, the conservation works of Carlo Albacini reintegrated the ancient original legs, while the sixteenth-century legs are now exhibited near the statue of Hercules.
The torment of Dirce, called Farnese Bull
The statue was discovered in 1545 in the gymnasium of the Baths of Caracalla, but it reached the Museum only in 1826. The sculpture, called “the mountain of marble” because it was carved in one whole block of marble, represents the torment of Dirce, tied to an enraged bull by Amphion and Zethus, who wanted to punish her for the ill-treatment repeatedly inflicted on their mother Antiope.
In the middle of the group stands the figure of the huge enraged bull, held back by the horns by one of the two brothers, while the other is holding the rope with which the unfortunate woman will be anchored to the animal. At the foot of the central group, on the right, a dog and a shepherd are watching the scene, while at the back appears the figure of Antiope, standing and holding the thyrsus in her hand.
The subject, with a heavy Dionysiac connotation which is due to the presence of the bull and the depiction of Antiope as a Bacchante, is frequently used in painting and echoes a famous work of two Rhodian artists, Apollonius and Tauriscus of Trallas, carved at the end of the second century BC.
Flora or Pomona
The stately statue depicts a female deity that is difficult to identify either with Flora or with Pomona, protectresses of vegetation and fruit. The goddess is wearing a long chiton and himation (tunic and cloak); the chiton is fastened below the breast and it forms full pleats on the upper part of the body, while it comes down along the legs in thinner and thick pleats. On the base are the feet wearing sandals. The waved hair parted in two bands, which form a sort of bun on the nape of the neck, is surrounded by a wreath of entwined flowers. The Farnese statue in question is inspired by a Greek prototype of the second half of the fifth century BC.
After its discovery, the statue was restored (left hand, right arm, neck) by C. Albacini as Flora for the presence of flowers on the cloak and it was put as a counterpart beside the more famous homonymous sculpture. A drawing by the Dutch artist Marten van Heemskerck, working in Rome between 1532 and 1536, depicts both the statues of Flora Farnese not yet restored. Therefore, it was thought that they do not come from the Baths of Caracalla, the excavation of which was started in 1545.