The reopening to the public of the Borghese Gallery, has been greeted as the most important event which has taken place in the art world in recent years.
This superb Seventeenth century collection gathered by the homonymous Cardinal is not practically unharmed but also enriched by historical items added at the end of the Eighteenth century.
The building was threatened by serious problems of stability and considered unfit for use for a long time because of the widespread hydrogeologic disorder that has affected the whole area, therefore the villa was closed for long time.
This has prevented Romans and tourists from enjoying one of the richest and most elegant museums that the Capital can boast.
The building is a typical example of “villa of the delights” of Renaissance memory, the splendid suburban residence situated outside the Pinciana Gate is one of the few examples of that belt of patrician residencesswept away during the building boom which occurred after the annexation of Rome to the Reign of Italy.
It providentially escaped one of the typical I real estate speculations of that time, and was acquired by the Italian State in 1902 along with its collections, the property of the park was only subsequently transferred to the City of Rome.
The original nucleus of the villa was built at the beginning of the Eighteenth century when Scipione Borghese, an unrivalled patron and collector, became a cardinal of Pope Paul V and therefore the beneficiary of large incomes.
He then decided to transform an ancient, anonymous Sixteenth century vineyard into the prestigious suburbanfamily residence and a place for cultural and mundane pleasures enriched by an unlimited collection of ancient marbles and creations of both famous and promising artists then working in Rome.
The result was a building projected by the architects Flaminio Ponzio and Vasanzio, and carried out between 1613 and 1615.
The mansion has a U shaped plan on the model of the Sixteenth century Villa Farnesina at the Lungara, with an antique facade which is completely encrusted with basreliefs and ancient statues.
By contrast the sobriety of the interiors was meant to create a neutral background against which the superb art collection could stand out. Interestingly the artworks were not always gathered by lawful means: “acquisitions” enforced during the night (as in the case of the famous Bagioni Deposition by Raffaello), paintings extorted under threat of jail (as happened to the Domenichino) or generously withdrawing from the treasury of the Apostolic Chamber allowed to gather works of exceptional value, that still today dazzle visitors with their beauty, in the mansion.
Such works as those by ancient artists such as Raffaello, Perugino, Dosso Dossi, Beccafumi, Sodoma,Lotto, Bronzino, Niccola dell’Abate, Parmigianino, and works by contemporary artists such as Reni, which are apparently 35 meters long, probably had a moralizing meaning intended to warn the visitor about the trick on the senses and about the illusoriness of the ground size.
The work is evidence of the cardinal’s strong scientific interests while the gallery, which was located on the piano nobile in rooms which were expressly created for exhibiting works, gave substance to the cardinal’s artistic preferences. other members of the family added their contributions to the first nucleus of works, such as:Virginio and Orazio Spada (the former was the husband of Maria Varalli who had to bring a dowry of old and modern works of considerable importance for the collection), as well as Cardinal Filippo Spada, Bernardino’s great-grandson who lived at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
The gallery was restored to the state in 1951 after patient recuperation work of the material lost during the Second World War was carried out. The picture gallery occupies four large frescoed halls which also include old and modern fittings, furniture and marble; the ensemble thus successfully restores the characteristic appearance of the private collections of the seventeenth century where the paintings, arranged on the walls in successive rows, aspire to outlining, in an integrated and harmonious way, rooms with a clearly decorative aspect.
The collection includes important examples of seventeenth century paintings with works by Reni, Guercino,Carracci, Domenichino, Solimena, Preti and the Artemisia Gentileschi, as well as important pieces by the Nordic school (Bamboccio and Valentini), and a valuable Titian.
One of the most important works is the sketch created by Baciccia for the fresco in the dome of the church of Jesus, while two splendid chandeliers in Murano glass in the third room and the maps of the world by Dutch cartographer Guglielmo Bleau stand out among the items on display.
Information and Addresses
Address Piazza Capodiferro, 13
Visiting Hours Every day from 8.30 am to 730 pm (the ticket office closes half an hour before the schedule closing time)
Closed Monday, Dec. 25, Ja n. 1
Price € 5,00; concessions € 2,50; free admittance for those aged under 18 and over 65 (EU)