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Villa Farnesina Review
Money was no object to the extravagant Agostino Chigi, a banker from Siena who financed many a papal project. His munificence is evident in this elegant villa, built for him about 1511. He was especially proud of the delicate fresco decorations in the airy loggias, now glassed in to protect their artistic treasures. When Raphael could steal a little time from his work on the Vatican Stanze, he came over to execute some of the frescoes himself, notably a luminous Galatea. In his villa, Agostino entertained the popes and princes of 16th-century Rome. He delighted in impressing his guests at alfresco suppers held in riverside pavilions by having his servants clear the table by casting the precious silver and gold dinnerware into the Tiber. His extravagance was not quite so boundless as he wished to make it appear, however: He had nets unfurled a foot or two under the water's surface to catch the valuable ware.
In the magnificent Loggia of Psyche on the ground floor, Giulio Romano and others worked from Raphael's designs. Raphael's lovely Galatea is in the adjacent room. On the floor above you can see the trompe l'oeil effects in the aptly named Hall of Perspectives by Peruzzi. Agostino Chigi's bedroom, next door, was frescoed by Sodoma with scenes from the life of Alexander the Great, notably the Wedding of Alexander and Roxanne, which is considered to be the artist's best work. The palace also houses the Gabinetto Nazionale delle Stampe, a treasure-house of old prints and drawings. When the Tiber embankments were built in 1879, the remains of a classical villa were discovered under the Farnesina gardens, and their decorations are now in the Museo Nazionale Romano's collections in Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.
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A THREE WEEK DRIVE THROUGH THE LESSER KNOWN TOWNS
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