Instantly recognizable by the fresco of the Virgin above the entrance, this museum exhibits brilliantly restored works by late-Gothic, Renaissance, and Neapolitan baroque masters. The museum incorporates the baroque church of Santa Maria Donnaregina Nuova, started in 1617 and consecrated 50 years later for the Francescan nuns (les Clarisses) in the attached cloister. The church replaced the Gothic Donnaregina Vecchia, which was damaged by earthquake. In more modern times
the building was used as legal offices before being closed completely, becoming prey to the occasional theft, not to mention bomb damage during World War II. In 2008 the space was reborn as a museum.
Ground-floor artworks center on the life of the Virgin Mary, beginning with the first chapel on the left and French painter Charles Mellin's beautiful Immaculate Conception (1646); on the other side of what was the nave is an equally fine Madonna and Child by Massimo Stanzione. Also on the left is a space rich in Gothic and Renaissance statuary from the former church. You then take the elevator upstairs to where the nuns once attended Mass, concealed from the congregation by a special screen. The hundred works on display there follow the theme of life as an Imitation of Christ. There is also the rare chance see roof paintings close up, with state-of-the-art floodlights showing off their restoration to maximum effect.
The nave's vault contains frescoes by Francesco de Benedictis, including one depicting the Ascension of the Virgin (1654). In the former Presbytery at the end are the last two works of Luca Giordano, The Wedding at Cana and a mystically lit The Sermon on the Mount, both from 1705.