10 masterpieces in the Borghese Gallery you should see

The Galleria Borghese houses a wide part of the Borghese collection of paintings, sculpture and antiquities, begun by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, lived in the 1600s, nephew of pope Paul V.
The Villa was built by the architect Flaminio Ponzio in 1903 and hosts a collection of the masterpieces of Reinassence and Barocco, above all Bernini and Caravaggio.
We recommend, in order not to miss the most important masterpieces, a guided tour of Borghese Gallery with Villa Borghese Tours : you can skip the queue and take the opportunity to follow an experienced guide for a 10 people tour.

Apollo and Daphne, Bernini


Gian Lorenzo Bernini [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Daphne’s legs turn into roots and by the hands and the hair sprouting of leaves, while Apollo looks at the woman shocked by this event: Bernini working the marble is able to represent this amazing metamorphosis with unparalleled ease.

Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix, Canova

10 masterpieces in the Borghese Gallery you should see

Antonio Canova [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], attraverso Wikimedia Commons

The work was commissioned in 1804 by the famous Venetian sculptor by Prince Camillo Borghese to portray his young wife, younger sister of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Pauline is lying half-naked on a daybed in painted wood decorated with gold inserts and between the fingers has a bone thin, attributed to the goddess in recognition of his supremacy among the female deities.

Boy with a Basket of Fruit, Caravaggio


This famous painting by Caravaggio is one of the first works that he painted in Rome, where I had attained the age of twenty-two years. At that time it was used to make “flowers and fruit”, and it is here that probably was born his interest in still lifes. In this context, the still life, however, is not in itself, but supported by the figure of a young boy.

Sacred and Profane Love, Tiziano

Must-sees at Borghese gallery

Titian [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Sacred Love and Profane Love, is a masterpiece by artist Tiziano Vecellio at the age of about 25 years, was realized at the wedding of Venetian Nicholas Aurelius and Laura Bagarotto in 1514. The two women of similar perfection symbolize one another’s “short happiness on earth” with the attribute of the vessel and the other joys of eternal happiness and heavenly in hand with the burning flame of God’s love.

The Enchantress Circe (or Melissa), Dosso Dossi

In the early 1500s the painter John Luther, better known as Dosso Dossi, a native of the city of Ferrara, painted this work using the technique of oil on canvas. The picture captures a magician in the act of making a spell: the female protagonist of the scene is not a cruel witch, but a witch with a sweet and benevolent.

The Sleeping Hermaphrodite

Hermaphroditus, as his name suggests, was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite.
With both male and female features, it may seem a peculiar subject for a Greco-Roman statue, but this figure actually comes straight from classical mythology.

Young Woman with a Unicorn, Raphael


Raffaello Sanzio [Public domain], attraverso Wikimedia Commons

While Raphael’s subject remains a mystery, his inspiration is clear; this portrait was painted only a few years and possibly just a few months after Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa. The key seems to be the adorable mini-unicorn the subject holds in her lap; it was a symbol of purity, appropriate for a young noblewoman.

David with the Head of Goliath, Caravaggio

Caravaggio painted the head of the giant Goliath with a portrait of his own face. Although the dating of the canvas is debated, it is possible that Caravaggio painted it while in exile from Rome after being charged with murder. The painting, then, might have been an attempt to sway his powerful patron, Cardinal Borghese, to intercede on his behalf.

Self-portrait as Bacchus (Sick Bacchus), Caravaggio

Many 16th century painters believed that moonlight offered optimal lighting for painting.  This, according to the Borghese Gallery, likely accounts for the greenish, waxy pallor of Bacchus’ (or Caravaggio’s) complexion (above, right).  The intent of the Bacchus iconography remains unclear, despite extensive art historical debate about it.

Madonna of the Palafrenieri, Caravaggio

Madonna dei Palafranieri di Caravaggio

Caravaggio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The paiting heavily criticized for its alleged lack of decorum and dignity. Both she and Saint Anne, the patron saint of the confraternity of the Palafrenieri who commissioned the work, are depicted as ordinary women. They, like Jesus, are not idealized by Caravaggio.

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