On the far eastern edge of the Villa Borghese park, the wonderful Galleria Borghese was built in the early seventeenth century by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, and turned over to the state in 1902. Today it’s one of Rome’s great treasure-houses of art and should not be missed; be sure to book in advance.

The ground floor

The ground floor contains mainly sculpture: a mixture of ancient Roman items and seventeenth-century works, roughly linked together with late eighteenth-century ceiling paintings showing scenes from the Trojan War. Highlights include, in the first room off the entrance hall, Canova’s famously erotic statue Paolina Borghese – sister of Napoleon and married (reluctantly) to the reigning Prince Borghese – posed as Venus. Next door, there’s a marvellous statue of David by Bernini, the face of which is a self-portrait of the sculptor, and, further on, a dramatic, poised statue of Apollo and Daphne that captures the split second when Daphne is transformed into a laurel tree, with her fingers becoming leaves and her legs tree trunks. Next door, the Room of the Emperors has another Bernini sculpture, The Rape of Persephone, dating from 1622, a coolly virtuosic work that shows in melodramatic form the story of the abduction to the underworld of the beautiful nymph Persephone. The last room contains a variety of paintings by Cardinal Scipione’s protégé Caravaggio, notably the Madonna of the Grooms from 1605, a painting that at the time was considered to have depicted Christ far too realistically to hang in a central Rome church. Look also at St Jerome, captured writing at a table lit only by a source of light that streams in from the upper left of the picture, and his David holding the head of Goliath, sent by Caravaggio to Cardinal Scipione from exile in Malta, where he had fled to escape capital punishment for various crimes, and perhaps the last painting he ever did.

The first floor

The upstairs gallery is one of the richest small collections of paintings in the world. In the first room are several important paintings by Raphael, including his Deposition, painted in 1507 for a noble of Perugia in memory of her son. Look out also for Lady with a Unicorn and Portrait of a Man by Perugino, and a copy of the artist’s tired-out Julius II, painted in the last year of the pope’s life, 1513. In further rooms there are more early sixteenth-century paintings; prominent works include Cranach’s Venus and Cupid with a Honeycomb, Lorenzo Lotto’s touching Portrait of a Man, and in the opposite direction a series of self-portraits by Bernini at various stages of his long life. Next to these are a lifelike bust of Cardinal Scipione executed by Bernini in 1632, and a smaller bust of Pope Paul V, also by Bernini. Beyond here, in a further room, is a painting of Diana by Domechino, depicting the goddess and her attendants doing a bit of target practice, and Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, painted in 1514 when he was about 25 years old, to celebrate the marriage of the Venetian noble Niccolò Aurelio.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Rome and Lazio features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Rome in ruins: what to see and what to skip in the eternal city

Rome in ruins: what to see and what to skip in the eternal city

Roman ruins: what to see and what to skip in the eternal city. Not sure which ancient monuments are worth visiting in Rome? Aside from the obvious sites like t…

01 Oct 2018 • Aimee White insert_drive_file Article
20 picturesque Christmas destinations

20 picturesque Christmas destinations

Dreaming of a trip this Christmas? We're here to help. From glittering cities to a few snowy escapes, here are 20 classic destinations for a festive break. …

12 Dec 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
Where to find the best beaches in Italy

Where to find the best beaches in Italy

From secluded coves to lively seafronts, there are plenty of places to sun worship in Italy. But with an increasing number of hotels charging for access to the …

20 Jul 2017 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs