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Sensing Naples

Sat 1 April 2023Sun 31 December 2023

Sensing Naples

Come and be transported to Naples – where the scent of orange blossom drifts on the air and the spectacle of Vesuvius smoulders in the distance. Bringing to life the smells, sounds, sights, tastes and sensations of visiting this vibrant Italian city, Sensing Naples will see the exquisite historic works in our Naples Collection rehung and reimagined. Interactive elements and new wall texts will foreground exciting new research into objects in the collection undertaken in collaboration with the University of Oxford and the Centre for the Art and Architectural History of Port Cities, Naples.

The display features new interactive elements, including samples of music from the period, and six bespoke fragrances, which are paired with specific paintings. Developed in collaboration with a specialist fragrance house, the scents have been designed to highlight elements within the paintings and to evoke the experience of visiting the city of Naples in the period 1600-1800. Some are pleasant, others not so – they include the smells of the Bay of Naples, perfumed gloves, a fish market, tobacco smoke, a floral still life and an eruption of Mount Vesuvius.  You will also find a new, interactive play table modelled on an erupting Vesuvius, a permanent fixture in the galleries which is aimed at engaging our youngest visitors.

Most exciting of all are the new works on display. These include examples of souvenirs made from the lava of Vesuvius and brought back to Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as two new commissions produced by artists working today. The new artworks respond to the theme of the senses and also to works in the historic collection, and have been commissioned in partnership with disability arts platform Unlimited. DYSPLA, a neuro-divergent led award-winning arts studio, have created a work that speaks to Lorenzo Vaccaro’s marble busts of The Four Continents, through four new performative digital sculptures. Accessed via a QR code, these holographic sculptures invite you to engage with your own physicality through touch. The senses of sight, hearing and touch are further addressed in the second new artwork, which takes the form of three bronze bells suspended above a piece of Vesuvius lava rock. The bells can be gently rung, and were created for Compton Verney by Aaron McPeake, an artist whose practice explores his own experience of sight loss later in life.

Image: Volaire, An Eruption of Vesuvius by Moonlight © Compton Verney photo by John Hammond