FREYA SAMUEL (Joint Honours History of Art and Italian; currently on a Year Abroad in Italy)
As a part of my year abroad, I was lucky enough to work at the Museo di Capodimonte, in Naples, Italy, for three months. It is a beautiful art gallery in the south of Italy, in a city steeped in cultural heritage and ancient landmarks. The museum was originally a residence of the Bourbon family and houses a huge collection of Italian paintings from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries, as well as an important collection of ancient Roman sculpture.
During my time at the museum, I had the opportunity to do and see some amazing things. Within my first few weeks, I had watched the arrival and installation of several artworks into the museum’s permanent public collection, including Caravaggio’s The Flagellation of Christ, 1607. I also worked on the renovation of the De Ciccio Collection and got to assist in the cleaning and restoration of an ancient Roman sculpture, the Head of Augustus from 11 A.D. One of the most exciting moments was the first time I went into a deposit – this is where the museum stores all the paintings that are not on display. There are over 5000 works in total and there just isn’t enough space to display them all at once. The deposits are real treasure troves! Seeing the secret rooms filled with beautiful paintings, some of which had never been displayed in public, really made me realise how unique and exciting the experience was.
I worked in the Collections Department of the museum. Initially, I began in the deposits creating new inventories to replace the historic archives. However, the focus of my internship changed when the museum proposed the exhibition of the deposits, called Depositi di Capodimonte: La Storia Ancora da Scrivere (The Deposits of Capodimonte: A Story to be Told). The exhibition timescale was just three months (which happened to be the period of my internship) and aimed to display a range of never-before-seen artworks across 9 rooms of the gallery. It was a huge challenge for the whole team, but it was fantastic to see the exhibition develop from the initial proposal to opening.
I experienced many different areas of the exhibition set-up. Initially, I assisted in organising and digitalising wall plans for the layout of artworks in the exhibition, which was an insightful and creative experience. I went on to analyse and document the state of conservation of paintings, whilst assessing their suitability to be exhibited. I also worked on the translation from Italian to English of the press releases and the titles and captions to accompany paintings. The experience gave me a rich insight into the different aspects of putting together an exhibition, particularly because I was working alongside the Head of Collections, who was the designated Head Curator for this project. This allowed me to work closely alongside the curatorial team to gain a comprehensive understanding of the exhibition process.
My internship at the Museo di Capodimonte was beneficial to me in so many ways. I now have hands-on experience of setting up an exhibition in a national gallery, and my Italian language skills have improved beyond recognition ( … but this was not easy, and it took me a long time to get used to the Neapolitan accent!). Naples is also a great place to live, visiting places like Pompeii and Herculaneum on the weekends, and I am so glad my year aboard gave me the opportunity to experience such a wonderful place.