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Farnese Bull: Naples National Archaeological Museum

Surely one of the most remarkable Classical sculptures is the Farnese Bull. A massive sculpture in white marble that depicts the terrifying moment when two brothers tie a woman to a raging bull as punishment for the woman’s ill treatment of their mother. Now a main attraction in the Naples National Archaeological Museum, the sculpture was found in pieces during 16th century excavations at the Baths of Caracalla to find antiquities to decorate the Farnese family palazzo in Rome.

People admiring the enormous Farnese Bull sculpture.
The larger-than-life sculpture of the Farnese Bull in the National Archaeological Museum, Naples.

The Farnase Bull & the Myth of Antiope

A closeup of the Farnese Bull showing Amphion and Zethus grappling with the bull to which they tie Dirce.
Amphion and Zethus grappling with the bull.
A close up of the Farnese Bull sculpture, showing the shepherd and his excited dog.
The shepherd and his excited dog.

History of the Farnese Bull

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National Archaeological Museum of Naples

The Museum is the most important in the world for Roman painting, and was founded in 1816. The original nucleus of the collection is due to King Charles of Bourbon, who promoted excavations in Pompeii and Herculaneum and brought part of the Farnese collection inherited from his mother to Naples. There are many famous finds to admire, such as the Alexander Mosaic or the bronzes from the Villa of the Papyri, while the collections display Roman mosaics and frescoes, Egyptian artefacts and those from Magna Graecia, as well as entire sections dedicated to prehistory and protohistory, epigraphy and numismatics, concluding with the Farnese Collection, which includes the famous sculptures of Hercules and Bull.

Archaeology Travel Writer

Thomas Dowson

With a professional background in archaeology and a passion for travel, I founded Archaeology Travel to help more people explore our world’s fascinating pasts. Born in Zambia, I trained as an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and taught archaeology at the universities of Southampton and Manchester (England). Read More

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