Hg2 : The Hedonist

Galleria Borghese

The owner of this collection was the Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who commissioned architect Flaminio Ponzio to build his party-pad in 1608. The nephew of Pope Paul V’s nephew had a good eye for art and even picked up some bargain Caravaggio paintings after they had been rejected by other patrons. Sculpture is very well represented in the gallery, and includes important works from masters Canova and Bernini. The former’s waxed marble statue of Paolina Borghese (Napoleon’s sister) posing as a topless Venus created scandal and notoriety for both artist and patron when it was unveiled. Bernini is the superstar of this collection, whose dramatic works here include the vivid marble depiction of Apollo and Daphne, which bears the sobering inscription ‘when we pursue fleeting pleasures we only reap bitter fruits’, and the Rape of Proserpina, an erotic tableau of the vituperative god Pluto pressing his crushing hand into the maiden’s thigh as he abducts her to his Underworld. The pinacoteca upstairs is groaning with masterpieces, and is a who’s who of favourites from the canon of Italian painting from Raphael to Veronese, Rubens to Titian, along with Correggio’s semi-pornographic painting of Danaë commissioned for Charles V of Spain. Booking is essential – as far as a week in advance in high season – and visits are timed for every two hours. The good news is the museum is fairly compact and manageable in this time.

Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5,
Villa Borghese
+39 06 841 3979
Opening Times
9am-7pm. Closed Mondays.
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