Article ID: CBB001421839

Dynasty, Archaeology and Conservation: The Bourbon Rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Eighteenth-Century Naples (2014)


The rediscovery of the ancient sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the eighteenth century attracted a huge response from contemporary commentators. Many of these, as well as almost all subsequent judgements from historians, are very critical of the Bourbon excavators. Charles, King of Naples, and his team of antiquaries have been depicted as charlatans, treating ancient artefacts and the sites poorly, interested in them only in so far as they glorified their kingdom. In this article it is argued that, with an understanding of contemporary approaches to antiquity and conservation, this verdict on the Bourbons seems unduly harsh. Their archaeological methods and treatment of classical art were typical for the eighteenth century and were, in some ways, progressive. In support of this harsh judgement of Charles, Winckelmann has been portrayed as a savage critic of the excavations; in reality he was kinder to the Bourbons than historians have believed.

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Authors & Contributors
Hall, Kathleen
Hammarberg, Melvyn
Kuklick, Henrika
Preucel, Robert W
Kuklick, Bruce
Igo, Sarah E.
Journal of the History of Collections
Studien zum Achtzehnten Jahrhundert
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Bulletin of the History of Archaeology
Chinese Annals of History of Science and Technology
Oxford University Press
University of Pennsylvania
Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura
Johns Hopkins University Press
Professions and professionalization
Excavations (archaeology)
Winckelmann, Johann Joachim
Buno, Johannes
Sanders, John
Soane, John
Koumanoudēs, Stefanos Athanasiou
Haverfield, Francis John
Time Periods
18th century
19th century
Early modern
17th century
20th century, early
Great Britain
Pompeii (Italy)
London (England)
Lisbon (Portugal)
Crystal Palace
British Museum
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli

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