Curiosities from the Museum of Giovanni Carafa (1778)

These fantastic depictions of various Roman antiquities are sourced from Alcuni monumenti del Museo Carrafa (1778), a wonderful catalogue of objects once found in the private museum of 18th-century antiquities collector Giovanni Carafa, the Duke of Noja (now called Noicattaro, a town near Bari in southern Italy ). Born in 1715, Carafa studied grammar and literature but soon developed an interest in scientific subjects, mainly mathematics. Around 1738 he was appointed lecturer of Optics and Mathematics at the University of Naples, and there he continued to explore his interests in the natural sciences, especially geology and mineralogy. He soon began collecting archaeological and numismatic pieces concerning southern Italy and established a small museum (which would become part of the collection of Museo di Capodimonte in 1771). He is perhaps most famous today for having created a topographical map of the city of Naples and its neighbourhoods, the first of its kind.

For each image presented in his Alcuni monumenti del Museo Carrafa Carafa wrote a small commentary, telling the reader more about the objects they depict and his ideas on what they signify. We've used these summaries to do likewise for each of the images we've selected — and a massive grazie mille to Giorgia Coghi for her help in translating from the Italian into English.

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