Why visit the Borghese Gallery?

Located on Pincian Hill on a beautiful 17th century estate, the Borghese Gallery has been named one of the top museums in Rome, and here’s why.

The Borghese Gallery in Rome, Italy

The Galleria Borghese is an art gallery in Rome, housed in the former Villa Borghese Pinciana. Once one entity, the site has now been split into two different tourist attractions. As the gardens and the gallery are two collections of art in their own right it made sense to separate them. If you’re headed to Rome on your next trip, find out why the Borghese Gallery should be on your list of attractions. Located in the heart of Rome stands one of the most iconic and well-stocked museums in the city; the Borghese Gallery. Home to an array of spectacular paintings and sculptures by famous artists such as Raphael, Bernini, and Caravaggio, the gallery is an eye-opening experience for art and non-art fans alike. You don’t need to be a specialist to appreciate the masterpieces on display at this gallery.

The History of the Borghese Gallery

Cardinal Scipione Borghese

The name Borghese comes from the Borghese family who owned the gallery when it started. They originally used it as a country villa built in the 1600s, named Villa Borghese Pinciana. The family were a high-profile family who moved to Rome in the 16th century. With their wealth and fame substantially growing after Camillo Borghese was elected as Pope Paul V in 1604. Pope Paul V had a great influence, similar to that of a king, and would bestow his family with powerful titles. Naming his brother Governor of the Borgo and castellan of Castel Sant’Angelo, and making his sister’s son, Scipione Caffarelli, a cardinal and his adoptive son. Upon his adoption Scipione Caffarelli became Scipione Borghese who was an avid collector of modern and ancient art. He was the one to begin the substantial collection of paintings, sculptures and antiques which today make up a large part of the Borghese Gallery.

With the immense wealth he acquired as Cardinal, Borghese managed to assemble one of the largest and most impressive art collections in Europe. His passion for art cannot be faulted when we consider the lengths he went to, to expand his collection. For instance, in 1607 the Cardinal and the Pope managed to confiscate 107 paintings from the studio of the painter Cavalier D’Arpino. The scandal continues in the following year when Raphael’s Deposition was secretly removed from the Baglioni Chapel in the city of Perugia and transported to Rome to be given to Borghese. When they were found out the Borgheses were forced to provide Perugia with two excellent copies, rather than returning the original. Bad news for Perugia, good news for you! As the original still sits with the rest of the Borghese collection in Roma.

The Works of Beauty

Bernini's stature of Apollo and Daphne in the Borghese Gallery

Scipone Borghese was an early patron of Bernini and an avid collector of works by Caravaggio, so it’s no surprise that these two feature heavily in his collection. Although he is most associated with the development of the Baroque, he also eagerly collected works of many artists of quite different styles. It’s hard to choose the greatest pieces within the gallery, as there is an array of masters within its walls. Gian Lorenzo Bernini had one of the most famous sculptures in the exhibition, the ‘Apollo and Daphne.’ The piece is inspired by the Greek mythology scene of Daphne, a daughter of a river god, and Apollo, the god of light. Apollo was madly in love with Daphne, who hated him and refused him continuously. Daphne asked the help of a river to turn her into a tree to be free of Apollo’s advances. Stand face to face with the life-size Apollo and gaze into Daphne’s eyes at the tragic moment she turns into a tree and be amazed by Bernini’s work.

A famous painting worth mentioning is Caravaggio’s ‘Boy with a Basket of Fruit’. This painting was produced during Caravaggio’s still life period, with the painting demonstrating his true skill in extreme realism. Another painting worth your time and attention is the ‘Dama con Liocorno’ (Young Woman with Unicorn). This softly detailed painting done by the expert hand of Raphael, depicts a young Florentine woman embracing a unicorn whilst sitting by a tree. With a country side backdrop, jewels indicating marital bond and the unicorn a symbol of virginity, the painting shows all the virtues and symbols of a young bride.

The Borghese Gardens

Villa Borghese Gardens in Rome, Italy

After marvelling at the art pieces, step outside and stroll around the stunning greenery of the Villa Borghese Gardens. It is one of the largest public parks in Rome, with over 197 acres of land brimming with perfectly manicured gardens, stunning architecture and secret pathways. Built in 1605 when Cardinal Scipione Borghese, with the help of architect Flaminio Ponzio, began turning this former vineyard into the most extensive gardens built in Rome since Antiquity. Pincian Hill located south of the park offers some of the greatest views of Rome. Relax on one of the park’s benches, or roam the footsteps of Borghese and his family as you take in the wooded glades and grassy banks which make this garden lush with greenery. A gallery, a museum and a garden all in one, a day at the Galleria Borghese will make you feel like you’ve transported back to the 17th century.

Now we’ve convinced you that this art haven is more than worth your time, make the most of it with our Borghese Gallery and Gardens Tour, including skip the line tickets and an all-knowing tour guide.

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