The story of Galleria Borghese: private collection then museum hosting Caravaggio, Raffaello and Bernini works.

You are visiting Rome and you love art? Well, you can think about a museum trip.

Among the numerous available destinations you can’t miss Galleria Borghese, hosted in the park with the same name, where you can exploit art beauties and also natural sights.

If you already know what to do around the Eternal City and you want to plan your visit of the gallery in advance, you should know that you can also book it online.


Scipione Borghese: the origins of the Galleria’s paintings collection

Where is the gallery and how about its history? Beyond the Pincio public park, made by Valadier at the beginning of 1800s, there is Villa Borghese, the park hosting a beautiful zoo.

From there, you can easily enter the gallery, set up in the Seventeenth-century building built for Scipione Caffarelli Borghese cardinal, when Paolo V Borghese became Pope.

The collection was created by the cardinal will, as he wanted to be a modern collector.

Scipione was actually able to create one of the biggest collections of the time, buying at first about one hundred works from Cavalier D’Arpino and the Aquileia head of the family, in 1607.

During the following year, he bought about sixty paintings from Sfrondati cardinal.

Among this first round of works, there were some works by the young Caravaggio, by Tiziano and Raffaello.

Very often the cardinal followed his extravagant passion for arts: for example, he bought Caravaggio’s Madonna and Child with St. Anne, in 1605, lately refused in Saint Peter’s Basilica, probably to avoid the idea that Pope Paolo V could have eased it. It is said (and it seems to be enough true) that once the Pope helped Scipione Borghese to smuggle Raffaello’s Baglioni Deposition.


From paintings to sculptures

The cardinal love for arts hugged also sculpture, so that his collection is rich in sculptures too; he started enlarging his collection in 1607 buying the Della Porta and Ceuli collection and the groups by Bernini that you can find in the museum nowadays.

As Scipione wanted, when he died the collection was blocked under a legal obligation as to protect it until the end of the Eighteenth century.

At the end of the Seventeenth century, there were about 800 paintings and many sculptures from the ancient Rome. The latter interested Napoleon Bonaparte, Camillo Broghese prince brother-in-law, Paulina Bonaparte’s husband.

Napoleon ordered to sell the ancient works, at the beginning of the Nineteenth century, now in the Louvre museum.

At the time, Camillo Borghese prince enriched the collection with other two masterpieces: the Venus Victorious, representing Paulina Bonaparte, by Antonio Canova and the Danae by Correggio.

During the first part of the Nineteenth century, the Prince renewed the obligation set by Scipione, so he could protect the collection until 1902, when the Italian State bought the museum and Galleria Borghese.


The museum of Galleria Borghese today: the ground floor

As you get in Villa Borghese, the hall, rich in decorations and sculptures, introduces the museum tour.

You will get astonished by the vault by Mariano Rossi, describing the Roman culture and the honour, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s The Truth and Giovan Battista della Porta’s The Twelve Caesars.

Around the first room, the Paulina room, on the ground floor, it will be possible to admire the statue representing Paulina Bonaparte, we named previously; it is located  where the great vault by Domenico De Angelis represents the stories of Venus and Aeneas.

There are other seven rooms at the ground floor. The Sun room, so called because it hosts the representation of the Ovid’s Metamorphosis Fall of Phaeton. By Francesco Caccianiga, it was made in 1775-1777.

In the middle of the room, there is the David, by Bernini. There are also other prestigious works, such as some Annibale Carracci, Battistello Caracciolo and Rutilio Manetti’s sculptures, together with two still life works by Hartford master.

Going on, you can find Apollo and Daphne room and the Emperors room. The first takes its name by the painting in the middle of the vault, representing the story told in Ovid’s Metamorphosis. By Pietro Angeletti, it represents the moment in which Daphne becomes a bay tree, as the Seasons allegory representation, connected to Bernini’s group, originally situated on the wall of the room.

The Emperors room takes its name by the busts of the Twelve Caesars, made by an anonymous author in the 1600s, placed in the Emperors room just two centuries later, by Antonio Asprucci project; both the paintings and the decorations on the wall and the vault are worth to mention.

The focus is the The Rape of Proserpina, made by Bernini, in 1621-1622.

You can also visit the Hermaphroditic room, the Gladiator room, the Egyptian room and the Silenus room. The first takes its name by the Second century statue representing an artistic sample by Policleto, as the paintings in the Hermaphroditic room gave the room its name.

In the Gladiator room, you can admire other important masterpieces by Bernini: Aeneas and Anchises, and The Truth, previously mentioned in the text.

The Egyptian room, designed by the architect Antonio Asprucci, hosts collections of Egyptian sculptures, as its name suggests.

Let’s conclude with the Silenus room, where there was the group of sculptures named Silenus and the child, lately moved to the Louvre museum. Nowadays, we can admire the Dancing Satyr by Bertel Thovaldsen, a very beautiful product, as everything around it.


Visiting the first floor rooms and the storages

Upstairs, on the first floor the tour goes on increasing historical and artistic beauties. There are 12 exposition places on the first floor. In Dido room, for example, you can admire Raffaello, Perugino and Botticelli paintings, among which there are the outstanding Crucifixion between Sts. Jerome and Christopher by Pinturicchio, the most ancient painting in the room.

In the Hercules room, you can admire the Danae by Correggio and in the Bacchae room the copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s Leda.

In Lanfranco lodge, you can’t miss his vault representing the Gods Council, the five Dosso Dossi’s paintings in the Aurora room, Domenichino’s works in the Helena and Paris room and the Psyche room, also called Horizon room, where you can see Tiziano, Lorenzo Lotto and Paolo Veronese’s works. 

Last, but not least, on the following floor there are the storages, the only one place in the world where there is a real gallery ordered by themes and painting schools.

Do you want to stay in Rome?

For this location we recommend Hotel Panama Garden, ideal for discovering Rome thanks to its strategic location.

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