Mediterranean cultures, Brazil National Museum (Digital Restoration)

The National Museum’s classic archeology collection consisted of approximately 750 pieces, mostly covering the Greek, Roman, Etruscan and Italian civilizations, the largest of its kind in Latin America. Much of this collection corresponded to the Greco-Roman collection of Empress Teresa Cristina, interested in archeology since her youth. When she landed in Brazil in 1843, shortly after her marriage by proxy with Dom Pedro II, the empress brought with her a collection of works recovered from excavations in the ancient cities of Herculano and Pompeii, destroyed in 79 by an eruption of the volcanoVesuvius. Some of these pieces came from the collection of Queen Carolina Murat, sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and wife of the king of Naples, Joaquim Murat.

In turn, the empress’ brother, King Fernando II of the Two Sicilies, ordered the excavations that had begun in the 18th century to be resumed in Herculaneum and Pompeii. The recovered pieces were sent to the Bourbon Museum, in Naples. Aiming to increase the presence of classical artifacts in Brazil and considering the creation of a future Greco-Roman archeology museum in this country, the empress established formal exchanges with the Kingdom of Naples. He asked Fernando II to send Greco-Roman pieces to Rio de Janeiro, while he sent artifacts of indigenous origin to Italy. The empress herself also financed excavations at Veios, an Etruscan archaeological site located fifteen kilometers north of Rome, bringing a large part of the objects found to Brazil. Most of this collection was formed between 1853 and 1859, but it continued to be enriched by the empress until the fall of the empire in 1889, when Teresa Cristina left the country.

Among the highlights of the collection was a set of four frescoes from Pompeii, executed around the 1st century. Two of these pieces were decorated with marine motifs, representing respectively a dragon and a seahorse as central motifs, and adorned the lower walls of the devotees’ room at the Temple of Isis. The other two frescoes had representations of plants, birds and landscapes, approaching stylistically the paintings of Herculano and Estabia. Also from Pompeii came a wide set of pieces depicting the daily lives of the residents: fibula, jewelry, mirrors and other pieces of the Roman dressing table, glass and bronze containers, phallic amulets and lamps modeled in terracotta.

The vast collection of ceramics covered dozens of objects and is marked by the diversity of origins, shapes, decorations and utilitarian purposes. The main styles and schools of classical antiquity are represented, from Corinthian geometric ceramics from the 7th century BC to Roman terracotta amphoras from the beginning of the Christian Era. Copies of craters, enócoas, pitchers, goblets, cíatos, bowls, hídrias, lécitos, asci and lekanides. The sets ofBucaros Etruscans (VII century BC), the Greek black – figure vases (VII centuries BC), the vessels of Egnatia (fourth century BC) and, above all, the wide range of ceramic italiotes red figures (V century III BC), from Apulia, Campania, Lucania and Magna Grecia.

The collection of sculptures featured a set of Tanagras, terracotta figurines of Greek origin popularized from the 4th century BC, as well as a series of Etruscan bronze miniatures representing warriors and female figures. The collection of military artifacts includes fragments of helmets, mace points, bronze sheaths and blades, brooches and faleras.

The Greco-Roman Collection of the National Museum is a result of the Empress Teresa Cristina Maria’s fascination with archeology, as well as her strong determination. Married by proxy to D. Pedro II in 1843, the same year in which the Infantry of Bourbon and Sicily arrived in Brazil, bringing in their baggage, out of personal initiative, recuperated pieces from the excavations promoted in Herculaneum and Pompeii, all of which nurtured an interest in the Empress from very a young age. Some of these pieces were part of the Queen Carolina Murat collection, Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister and wife of the King of Naples.

Her brother, King Ferdinand II, continued the excavations that had begun in the 18th Century in both cities, and Teresa Cristina Maria conducted excavations in Veii, an Etruscan site 15 km to the North of Rome. The recuperated pieces nourished the Bourbon Museum, in Naples. Decided to grow the Italian presence in Brazil through formal exchanges, as well as in considering the creation of a Roman archeology museum here, the Empress asked Ferdinand II for new pieces, while she was she simultaneously sending indigenous art pieces to Italy. The largest part of this Greco-Roman collection arrived in Brazil between 1853 and 1859, but continued to be enhanced until the Empress left the country in 1889, when it passed to the custody of the National Museum. The collection is composed, today, of circa 700 pieces.


Oenochoe Italo-Corinthian
Vase characteristic of Corinthian potters that settled in Magna Greacia.

Chalice with caryatids
Black ceramics (bucchero nero).
Chalice assembled over four supports in the shape of caryatids, in Eastern style. The piece is part of the Empress Teresa Cristina’s findings from the excavations that she executed in the Etruscan site of Veii.

Naked Torso
Representation of Venus found in excavations executed in 1853. The position of the goddess, standing up, suggests that it is a representation of the myth of Leda and the Swan. Venus — a central figure of the Roman pantheon — is the goddess of love, of fertility, of beauty, protectress of lovers and travelers. She defended both public and private interests, of men and women, of the young and the old. She usually appears accompanied by her attributes: an apple, a pomegranate, a sandalwood, a dolphin, and a pigeon. Venus and her Greek correspondent, Aphrodite, are usually represented naked or semi-naked.

Tripod vase with mask appliques
The glass possesses physical particularities that permit procedures impossible to be executed in clay or metal. Roman artisans explored this quality to its maximum. Besides the blown flasks, there were also those made with the aid of molds.

Chalice crater, Italiote
The scene represents the combat between the two warriors Etéocle and Polinice. A bird between the two carried a band (taenia) of victory. On the left, a woman sitting down holds a tray of offerings. In the top decoration, a frontal female face is surrounded by a gryphon and a panther.

Bell crater
The scene represents three women holding arks of offerings, a bunch of grapes, and a wreath of flower. The central figure is seated over a pile of stones.

Corinthian oenochoe with lid
Corinthian ceramics
The oenochoe is a jar with a single handle, used to serve wine from the crater to the goblets. The bowl was covered with floral motifs and representations of animals: lions, owls, goats, panthers, and swans.

Italo-Corinthian Askos in ring shape
The Askos is a type of vase used to mix and purify oils

Etruscan warrior
Schematic figure of a warrior standing up, carrying a helmet. His legs are far apart, with his body weight leaning on one of them, in an attitude of attack.

Mirror cables
The mirrors on the right represent a Kouros of Ionic style, 6th Century A.D. Very frequent in funerary contexts, the mirrors were buried not only with women, but also with men, also appearing in steles and in tomb paintings. The reflecting disks, absent in these exemplars, were frequently adorned with mythological scenes.

Female sculpture without head.
White and pink marble.
The piece portrayed is a statuette of kore in archaic style, possibly a copy of the Roman epoch. The standing female figure wears a long draped tunic, raised delicately with both hands. The skilled sculptor that produced it made use of the contrast between the body, made of white marble, and the feet, made of pink marble, as well as the head, now disappeared and probably also made out of the same material, with the intention of representing the human skin. It belongs to the set of objects that was found in a tomb during excavations that were conducted in Veii, in 1853.

National Museum in Rio de Janeiro
The National Museum, linked to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), is the oldest scientific institution in Brazil that, until September 2018, figured as one of the largest museums of natural history and anthropology in the Americas. It is located inside the Quinta da Boa Vista park, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, being installed in the São Cristóvão Palace.

The Museu Nacional/UFRJ is part of the Ministry of Education. It is the oldest scientific institution in Brazil and the biggest museum of natural history and anthropology in Latin America. Founded by D. João VI in June 6th, 1818, and initially based in Campo de Sant’Anna, it served the country to promote the cultural and economic development of the country.

Originally named Museu Real, it was incorporated to the Universidade do Brasil in 1946. Currently the Museum is part of the academic structure of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. The Museum located at Paço de São Cristóvão from 1892 — residency of the Brazilian Imperial Family until 1889 — gave to it a distinguished character if compared to other institutions of the area. It is the same place where the royal family lived for so many years (where D. Pedro II was born and the First Republican Constitutional Assembly happened), and today is the interface between memory and scientific production.

The National Museum housed a vast collection with more than 20 million items, encompassing some of the most relevant records of Brazilian memory in the field of natural and anthropological sciences, as well as wide and diverse sets of items from different regions of the planet, or produced by ancient peoples and civilizations. Formed over more than two centuries through collections, excavations, exchanges, acquisitions and donations, the collection was subdivided into collections of geology, paleontology, botany, zoology, biological anthropology (including the remnants of Luzia’s skeleton in this nucleus)., the oldest human fossil in the Americas),archeologyandethnology. It was the main basis for the research carried out by the academic departments of the museum – which develops activities in all regions of the country and in other parts of the world, including theAntarctic continent. It has one of the largestlibrariesspecializing in natural sciences in Brazil, with more than 470,000 volumes and 2,400 rare works.