Fodor's Expert Review Galleria Borghese

Villa Borghese Museum/Gallery Fodor's Choice
Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy

It's a real toss-up as to which is more magnificent: the museum built for Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1612, or the art that lies within it. The luxury-loving cardinal had the museum custom-built as a showcase for his fabulous collection of both antiquities and more "modern" works, including those he commissioned from the masters Caravaggio and Bernini. Today, it's a monument to Roman interior decoration at its most extravagant.

One of the most famous works in the collection is Canova's Neoclassical sculpture Pauline Borghese as Venus Victrix. The next three rooms hold three key early Baroque sculptures: Bernini's David, Apollo and Daphne, and Rape of Persephone. All were done when the artist was in his 20s, and all illustrate Bernini's extraordinary skill. The Apollo and Daphne shows the moment when, to aid her escape from the pursuing Apollo, Daphne is turned into a laurel tree. Leaves and twigs sprout from her fingertips as she stretches... READ MORE

It's a real toss-up as to which is more magnificent: the museum built for Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1612, or the art that lies within it. The luxury-loving cardinal had the museum custom-built as a showcase for his fabulous collection of both antiquities and more "modern" works, including those he commissioned from the masters Caravaggio and Bernini. Today, it's a monument to Roman interior decoration at its most extravagant.

One of the most famous works in the collection is Canova's Neoclassical sculpture Pauline Borghese as Venus Victrix. The next three rooms hold three key early Baroque sculptures: Bernini's David, Apollo and Daphne, and Rape of Persephone. All were done when the artist was in his 20s, and all illustrate Bernini's extraordinary skill. The Apollo and Daphne shows the moment when, to aid her escape from the pursuing Apollo, Daphne is turned into a laurel tree. Leaves and twigs sprout from her fingertips as she stretches agonizingly away from Apollo. In Pluto and Persephone, Pluto has just plucked Persephone (or Proserpina) from her flower-picking, or perhaps he's returning to Hades with his prize. (Don't miss the realistic way his grip causes dimples in Proserpina's flesh.) This is the stuff that makes the Baroque exciting—and moving. Other Berninis on view in the collection include a large, unfinished figure called Verità, or Truth.

Room 8 contains six paintings by Caravaggio, the hotheaded genius who died at age 37. All of his paintings, even the charming Boy with a Basket of Fruit, seethe with an undercurrent of darkness. The disquieting Sick Bacchus is a self-portrait of the artist who, like the god, had a fondness for wine. David and Goliath, painted in the last year of Caravaggio's life—while he was on the run, murder charges hanging over his head—includes his self-portrait in the head of Goliath. Upstairs, the Pinacoteca (Picture Gallery) boasts paintings by Raphael (including his moving Deposition), Pinturicchio, Perugino, Bellini, and Rubens. Probably the gallery's most famous painting is Titian's allegorical Sacred and Profane Love, a mysterious and yet-unsolved image with two female figures, one nude, one clothed. Admission to the Galleria is by reservation only. Visitors are admitted in two-hour shifts 9–5. Prime-time slots can sell out days in advance, so reserve directly through the Borghese's website.

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Museum/Gallery Fodor's Choice

Quick Facts

Piazza Scipione Borghese 5
Rome, Latium  00197, Italy

06-32810-for reservations

www.galleriaborghese.it

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: €15, including €2 reservation fee; increased fee during temporary exhibitions, Closed Mon.

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