The Vatican Museums originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius
II (1503-1513) and placed in what today is the "Cortile Ottagono" within the museum
complex. The popes were among the first sovereigns who opened the art collections
of their palaces to the public thus promoting knowledge of art history and culture.
As seen today, the Vatican Museums are a complex of different pontifical museums
and galleries that began under the patronage of the popes Clement XIV (1769-1774)
and Pius VI (1775-1799). In fact, the Pio-Clementine Museum was named after these
two popes, who set up this first major curatorial section. Later, Pius VII (1800-1823)
considerably expanded the collections of Classical Antiquities, to which he added
the Chiaromonti Museum and the "Braccio Nuovo" gallery. He also enriched the Epigraphic
Collection, which was conserved in the Lapidary Gallery.
Gregory XVI (1831-1846) founded the Etruscan Museum (1837) with archaeological
finds discovered during excavations carried out from 1828 onwards in southern
Etruria. Later, he established the Egyptian Museum (1839), which houses ancient
artifacts from explorations in Egypt, together with other pieces already conserved
in the Vatican and in the Museo Capitolino, and the Lateran Profane Museum (1844),
with statues, bas-relief sculptures and mosaics of the Roman era, which could
not be adequately placed in the Vatican Palace. The Lateran Profane Museum was
expanded in 1854 under Pius IX (1846-1878) with the addition of the Pio Christian
Museum. This museum is comprised of ancient sculptures (especially sarcophagi)
and inscriptions with ancient Christian content. In 1910, under the pontificate
of Saint Pius X (1903-1914), the Hebrew Lapidary was established. This section
of the museum contains 137 inscriptions from ancient Hebrew cemeteries in Rome
mostly from via Portuense and donated by the Marquisate Pellegrini-Quarantotti.
These last collections (Gregorian Profane Museum, Pio Christian Museum and the
Hebrew Lapidary) were transferred, under the pontificate of Pope John XXIII (1958-1963),
from the Lateran Palace to their present building within the Vatican and inaugurated
The original sculptures and paintings in the Borghese Gallery date back to Cardinal
Scipione's collection, the son of Ortensia Borghese - Paolo V's sister - and of
Francesco Caffarelli, though subsequent events over the next three centuries entailing
both losses and acquisition have left their mark.
Cardinal Scipion was drawn to any works of ancient, Renaissance and contemporary
art which might re-evoke a new golden age. He was not particularly interested
in medieval art, but passionately sought to acquire antique sculpture. But Cardinal
Scipione was so ambitious that he promoted the creation of new sculptures and
especially marble groups to rival antique works.
The statue of Pauline Bonaparte, executed by Canova between 1805 and 1808, has
been in the villa since 1838. In 1807, Camillo Borghese sold Napoleon 154 statues,
160 busts, 170 bas-reliefs, 30 columns and various vases, which constitue the
"Borghese Collection" in the Louvre. But already by the 1830s these gaps seem
to have been filled by new finds from recent excavations and works recuperated
from the cellars and various other Borghese residences. Cardinal Scipione's collection
of paintings was remarkable and was poetically described as early as 1613 by Scipione
Francucci. In 1607, the Pope gave the Cardinal 107 paintings which had been confiscated
from the painter Giuseppe Cesari, called the Cavalier d'Arpino. In the following
year, Raphael's Deposition was secretely removed from the Baglioni Chapel in the
church of S.Francesco in Perugia and transported to Rome. It was given to the
Cardinal Scipione through a papal motu proprio.
It was built, using white limestone, in 1885 and was inaugurated in 1911 but
it took almost twenty years to be completed. Besides, being the symbol of Italian
unity since 1921, it also considered the altar of the Italian land. Two sentries
of honor continuously watch the tomb the Unknown Soldier which keeps the remains
of an unknown soldier died during the World War.
An enormous flight of steps, flanked with winged lions and two bronze 'Vittorie',
leads to the altar of the Italian land. It shows high-reliefs by Angelo Zanelli,
in the middle of which, you can admire the Rome statue. In the middle of this
monument there is the gigantic equestrian statue of king Victor Emmanuel II, realized
in bronze by Enrico Chiaradia. Behind, the monument shows a grandiose porch with
columns 15 metres high and two colossal bronze quadrigae with winged 'Vittorie',
realized by Carlo Fontana e Paolo Bartolini.
The Palazzo was commissioned by Girolamo Riario (1443-1488). In 1568 it passed
into the hands of the Altemps family, which had it enlarged and built the courtyard.
This feature of the building, without a doubt its most handsome, is credited to
Martino Longhi the elder.
Restoration work has been under way since 1984, and steps are being taken to
arrange the exhibit.
Apart from the Ludovisi Throne, which is kept in the Palazzo Massimo, the collection
boasts works of great artistic value, such as the Gaul who kills himself together
with his wife, a copy of an originalfrom Pergamon; the Ludovisi Ares, a copy traceable
to Lysippus; the Castelporziano mosaic (IInd cent.), one of the most important
known Roman mosaics; the Ludovisi Hermes, copy of a bronze original by the school
of Myron; the Aphrodite of Cnidus, a copy of the reknowned Aphrodite by Praxiteles,
and a colossal sarcophagus depicting a battle between Romans and Barbarians.
Villa della Farnesina
It is placed in front of Corsini Palace, in "via della Lungara". It was constructed
from 1506 up to 1510 according to Agostino Chigi's will, who was a Sienese banker.
After the banker's death, this villa underwent a period of decay, during which,
many works of art, kept here, were taken away. In 1577 this villa was acquired
by cardinal Alessandro Farnese. Since then it was named "Villa Farnesina".
It is characterized by a central block with a loggia consisting of five arcades
and by two lateral outposts. The simple design of the building matches very well
the surrounding garden. Moving from the nineteenth-century atrium, you can reach
directly the "Loggia di Psiche", admirably frescoed in 1517 by Raffaello's pupils.
From the loggia you can approach directly the room of Galatea, the ceiling of
which was decorated by Peruzzi in 1511. The most important fresco in this room
is the famous Raffaello's "Galatea". At its top storey there is the splendid great
room of the "Prospettive", frescoed by Peruzzi and his pupils in 1518. You can
also admire the Cabinet of the Print, a collection of rare prints, founded in
1895 in order to keep Corsini's prints and designs.