Borghese Gallery History

History of the Borghese Gallery

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.

History of the Borghese Gallery

The Borghese family, with 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. Due to his significant position in the Vatican government, the Cardinal had enough wealth to invest into art.

Using his position and influence in Italy, the Cardinal 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. Art history academics have often raised an eyebrow over the means the Cardinal used to collect said artwork; he was known to imprison artists, or use coercion and threats to collect their art. 

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.

Essentially, most of his art collection is what one would see on display at the Borghese Gallery. 

The structure of the gallery itself was commissioned by the Cardinal in 1613 as a means to showcase his massive collection in one place. The gallery was developed as a suburban holiday villa with vast gardens, which are now known as Villa Borghese. In the 19th Century, the Borghese family underwent financial troubles and Prince Camillo Borghese sold many pieces from the gallery to the French state. In 1902, the entire Borghese state was acquired by the Roman government and turned into a public art gallery.

Today, travelers from all over the world visit the Borghese Gallery to soak in the historic art. 

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