Detailed History of the Borghese Gallery | From Private Collection to Public Treasure

The Galleria Borghese is an art gallery located in Villa Borghese. Upon establishment, the Borghese Gallery was part of the private art collection of a wealthy cardinal and is now open to the public; it is one of the most-visited attractions in Rome. 

The Borghese Gallery is home to a stunning collection of sculptures, antiques, and paintings from renowned artists such as Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, and Titan among others. .While smaller in scale than the Vatican Museums, the Borghese Gallery still has plenty of masterpieces you can admire, from Baroque paintings to Roman statues. 

The Villa was the brainchild of architect Flaminio Ponzio and was meant to function as a country villa at the edge of Rome. The abundance of lush greenery contributed by the Villa Borghese gardens only elevates the experience and makes it memorable.

Borghese Gallery History

The Borghese Family's Rise to Prominence

16th Century

The Borghese family, with strong ties to the Roman Catholic Church, moved to Rome in the 16th Century and rapidly amassed wealth and prominence. In 1605, Camillo Borghese was elected as Pope (Pope Paul V) and soon after, through nepotism, he named his nephew Scipione Borghese, a Cardinal. Scipione was an avid collector of art and invested a major part of the wealth he had acquired through papal fees and taxes into expanding the family's art collection.

Borghese Gallery History

Scipione Borghese's Art Collection

Early 17th Century

Scipione Borghese, a Cardinal, had enough wealth to invest in art due to his significant position in the Vatican government. He began his private collection of art, amassed from all over the country. His eye for exquisite, unique art was impeccable, which he used for commissioning and collecting sculptures and paintings during his lifetime. The Cardinal was known to imprison artists or use coercion and threats to collect their art. Most of his art collection is what one would see on display at the Borghese Gallery today.

Sculptures Commissioned by the Cardinal

Iconic Sculptures Commissioned by the Cardinal

Early 17th Century

The Cardinal, in particular, took an interest in the works of a young Gianlorenzo Bernini. He commissioned several iconic sculptures, like Apollo and Daphne, and The Rape of Proserpina, catapulting Bernini to fame. Caravaggio’s paintings were also an essential part of the Cardinal’s collection, which he obtained over the years and are displayed at the Borghese Gallery even today. Other artists he had an eye out for were the likes of Titian and Raphael.

Building the Gallery

Building the Gallery

Early 17th Century

Construction of the Borghese Gallery began in the early 17th century, commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese as a way to showcase his vast collection of art in one place. The cardinal's passion for art led him to invest a significant portion of the family's wealth into his collection, which included works by some of the most renowned artists of the time. The gallery was designed as a suburban holiday villa with extensive gardens, which are now known as Villa Borghese.

Financial Troubles of the Borghese Family

Financial Troubles of the Borghese Family

19th Century

In the 19th Century, the Borghese family underwent financial troubles, and Prince Camillo Borghese sold many pieces from the gallery, which included masterpieces by renowned artists such as Raphael, Titian, and Caravaggio, to the French state. This marked a significant loss for the Borghese collection, and the gallery had to be reorganized with the remaining works. The Borghese Gladiator, renowned since the 1620s as the most admired single sculpture in Villa Borghese, and the Borghese Hermaphroditus were moved to the Louvre.

Borghese Estate Becomes a Public Art Gallery

Borghese Estate Becomes a Public Art Gallery

In 1902, the entire Borghese estate was acquired by the Roman government. The acquisition of the Borghese estate by the Roman government in 1902 allowed the public to have access to the magnificent collection of art and architecture amassed by the Borghese family. Today, the Borghese Gallery is one of Rome's most prized attractions, housing some of the most significant works of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque period. Visitors can appreciate and admire the collection's outstanding paintings, including works by Titian, Raphael, and Caravaggio, and sculptures by Bernini. The Villa Borghese, with its vast gardens and extensive art collection, remains an essential part of Rome's artistic and cultural heritage.

How old is the Borghese Gallery?

The Borghese Gallery is about 120 years old.

Who built the Borghese Gallery?

Flaminio Ponzio and Giovanni Vasanzio were the architects of the Borghese Gallery. It was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the early 17th century.

Where is Borghese Gallery?

The Borghese Gallery is situated in Rome, Italy.

What is the Borghese Gallery famous for?

The Borghese Gallery is famous for housing some of the world's finest paintings such as Dama Con Liocorno and Melissa. It also has some incredible sculptures such as Apollo and Daphne and David.

How much does it cost to visit Borghese Gallery?

It costs €27 for adults to visit the Borghese Gallery. You can book your tickets online to enjoy a hassle-free and wonderful gallery experience.

Are there guided tours explaining the Borghese Gallery’s history?

Yes, guided tours are available explaining the history of Borghese Gallery and the relevance of the paintings and sculptures on display.

Is it worth visiting Borghese Gallery?

Yes, the Borghese Gallery is one of the best in Rome with a charming art collection making it worth a visit.

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