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One of the tresaures of the Archaeological Museum of Naoples: The Farnesian Atlas (Atlante Farnese)

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The Atlante Farnese, Archaeological Museum of Naples

The statue became part of the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in 1562. It represents the Titan Atlas supporting the globe on his shoulders, on which are represented in bas-relief forty-three constellations.

The peculiarity of sculpture, a Roman copy of the II century. d.C., is its uniqueness, as there are no other figurative monuments that bear witness, in an equally complete, of the iconography of the celestial sphere as it had gained in the astronomical culture Greek-Hellenistic.

The celestial sphere is depicted as seen from the outside, as it would appear to an observer outside the universe. All the elements are rendered in very tenuous relief: the equator, the tropics and the northern and southern rims.

On the globe are represented 43 constellations including the twelve signs of the zodiac, with the constellation of Aries in the equinoctial point, corresponding to the astronomical situation of the fourth century BC; 17 constellations are in the northern hemisphere and 14 in the astral.

The globe Farnese, therefore, constitutes the most ancient representation of the constellations.

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