Rome – Borghese Gallery

Hi friends, welcome back to my Italy series! On our first full day in Rome we had a 9am reservation at the Borghese Gallery. This museum is in the northern part of Rome in the Villa Borghese park, and it took us about thirty minutes to walk there. It would’ve been faster to take a cab, but Jon and I prefer to walk as much as we can in new cities. I checked in my backpack at security, picked up our tickets (you have to show your email confirmation and they print the tickets for you), and then at 9am we were the first group into the gallery. This museum only lets 360 people in at a time and I loved being able to see all the beautiful art without all the crowds. The catch is that you only get two hours, which we found to be more than enough, so make sure you arrive on time. You also must make a reservation online, you can’t buy tickets onsite.

This villa was built by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in the early 1600s to display his art gallery. He was the nephew of Pope Paul V so he could be a Cardinal even though he was not a religious man. He became the Cardinal Nephew and was in charge of papal affairs and finances, as well as the Borghese family finances. He essentially obtained his fortune to collect art through nepotism and abusing his power as a Cardinal. While he may not have had the most spotless personal life, he did have an eye for art! His collection features famous pieces by artists such as Raphael, Caravaggio, and Bernini.

The museum is spread out over two floors with most of the important pieces on the bottom floor. We enjoyed wandering around the beautiful villa and taking in all the amazing artwork. I didn’t feel rushed with the two-hour time limit, so unless you like looking at and pondering every piece, I wouldn’t worry.

Some of the highlights we saw:

Pauline Borghese as Venus by Antonio Canova – this sculpture was commissioned by Camillo Borghese and his wife, Napoleon’s sister Pauline, posed as the Goddess of Love for this sculpture.

David by Gian Lorenzo Bernini shows a more active David compared to Michelangelo’s. The face is a self-portrait of Bernini at 25 years old when he carved this. He is credited with inventing the Baroque style (1600s -1750) known for contrasting color, intricate details, action, and drama. You’ll be seeing his name a lot in my Rome posts.

Apollo and Daphne by Bernini depicts a tragic love story. Apollo has been hit with Cupid’s arrow and falls in love with the nymph Daphne. Daphne has been hit with Cupid’s arrow of aversion and asks her father, the river god, for help.  He answered the call and turned her into a tree to stop Apollo’s advances. In the sculpture Daphne is starting to transform into a tree right as Apollo reaches her, he’s too late.

The Rape of Proserpina by Bernini depicts Pluto capturing Posperpina, the daughter of the earth goddess Ceres, while she tries to fend him off. Bernini carved this when he was 24 years old. It’s impressive how lifelike he can make a block of marble appear.

Diana the Hunter is a Greek original from the second century BC that is in incredible condition.

Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius by Bernini shows Aeneas, a Trojan hero, fleeing Troy and heading to Rome with his family, household gods, and the Eternal Flame of Rome. Bernini was commissioned to create this statue by Cardinal Borghese when he was 20 years old.

The Cardinal loved Caravaggio and the Borghese Gallery has the single largest collection of his work. Caravaggio’s specialty was depicting his subjects in ordinary settings and the use of intense light-dark contrasts. The artist lived a wild, but short life. He allegedly killed a man and went into exile. He successfully appealed to Cardinal Borghese, but on his way back to Rome, he mysteriously died at the age of 38.

Self-Portrait as Bacchus

St. John the Baptist

St. Jerome Writing

The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun is the earliest work of Bernini. It’s a happy statue compared to a lot of his others in the collection.

Deposition by Raphael shows Jesus being taken from the cross in Raphael’s signature Renaissance style of geometrical perfection.

Last but not least, Portrait of a Young Woman with Unicorn by Raphael is another famous piece.

It’s hard to believe this collection belonged to one person. There are so many masterpieces in this equally stunning villa. I think the Villa Borghese is a must so I’d add a reminder to your calendar so you don’t miss out on getting tickets.

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29 thoughts on “Rome – Borghese Gallery

  1. Ahhh, how the wealthy lived. Lucky the villa was preserved as a museum. Some stunning interiors and art Lyssy. Have a great Wednesday. Allan

    1. I’m glad it was preserved as a museum too, it’s a very impressive sight and collection. The Cardinal sure lived a lavish life!

  2. There are so many amazing pieces in the museum, and the building is as elaborate as those masterpieces. It would be easy to spend an entire day there. Maggie

    1. I always enjoy visiting museums when the interiors are as exquisite as the collection. It was a great museum to visit.

    1. It makes me feel a little better his collection is now available for all, but I agree haha. It was an incredible museum!

  3. The place to be one time in our life ! Marvellous Italian artists. I don’t believe to be able to visit only in two hours, it is so amazing.
    Thanks for sharing Lissy.

  4. WOW! The Borghese Gallery is incredible in every room! I’ve walked by it during my last visit to Rome, but I didn’t go inside. A huge regret, though, was I would’ve loved to have seen its lavish exhibitions! You certainly had a wonderful time!

  5. The Borghese Gallery looks fantastic, as do the gardens outside. I’m such a fan of places that limit the number of people they let in, otherwise when it’s way too crowded, it can take away from the whole experience.

  6. It looks beautiful, I never cease to be amazed at how they made sculptures and paintings so beautiful and on such a scale so long ago without modern techniques. It must have taken months and months for each piece.

  7. I have no recollection of visiting the Borghese Gallery (only the surrounding park) at any time in my college year in Rome. I’m guessing it was a visit we were expected to do on our own versus something scheduled. Had I known there were so many works of Caravaggio I would’ve gone in a heartbeat! Bernini’s sculptures are awesome.

  8. Hi, lovely coverage of this magnificent place. Your pictures are stunning! We are planning on going in mid-October. Thanks for the tip of making reservations:))

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