Located within the homonymous Villa, the Borghese Gallery houses remarkable painting masterpieces by Antonello da Messina, Giovanni Bellini, Raffaello, Tiziano, Correggio and Caravaggio as well as wonderful sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Canova.
The original core of this marvellous collection dates back to the 17th century, when Cardinal Scipio Borghese (1579-1633), the nephew of Pope Paul V, motivated by his love for art and history, begun to collect paintings, sculptures and antiquities. The collection enlarged in the following centuries through purchases and donations.
Scipio had his attention captured by all the expressions of ancient art, Renaissance and innovative currents, which could somehow recall a new golden age. He did not show any interest for medieval art but was passionate about ancient sculpture. His ambition encouraged the creation of new sculptures, especially marble groups, which could compare with the beauty of the ancient masterpieces.
In 1607, the Pope assigned Scipio 107 paintings confiscated from the painter Giuseppe Cesari, known as Cavaliere D’Arpino. One year later, after being illegally removed from the Baglioni Chapel in Perugia, the Raphael’s Deposition was assigned by papal motu proprio to Cardinal Borghese.
In 1682, the collection was further enriched by the inheritance of Olimpia Aldobrandini, with art pieces from Cardinal Salviati and Lucrezia d’Este collections.
Canova’s marble statue of Pauline Bonaparte Borghese (1805-1808) became part of the gallery in 1838. In 1807, her husband Prince Camillo Borghese had to hand over to Napoleon much of the archaeological collection (154 statues, 160 busts, 170 bass-reliefs, 30 columns and some pottery) which was then included in the Borghese Fund at Louvre Museum in Paris.
Since 1902, the Gallery is owned by the Italian state, along with the entire Borghese estate and surrounding gardens and parkland.
Currently the collection consists of sculptures, bass-reliefs, and ancient mosaics, sixteenth-seventeenth century paintings, and sculptures. They include masterpieces by Antonello da Messina, Giovanni Bellini, Perugino, Pinturicchio, Veronese, Raphael (Deposition), Domenichino (Diana’s hunt), Titian (Sacred and profane love, Venus blindfolding Love), Correggio (Danae), Caravaggio (Youth with a fruit basket, the Madonna of the footmen, David with Goliath’s head), Rubens (Pietà) and magnificent sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Apollo and Daphne, the Rape of Proserpina, David) and Canova (Paolina Borghese).
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