Museo e Galleria Borghese

The Borghese Gallery lies on the outskirts of 17th century Rome and includes twenty rooms across two floors. Many of the sculptures are displayed in the spaces they were intended for, including a number of spectacular works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Let me take you on a quick tour of the collection highlights …

Pauline Bonaparte (1805-1808)
Antonio Canova


Canova was first instructed to depict Pauline Bonaparte fully clothed as the chaste goddess Diana, but Pauline insisted on Venus Victrix in the judgement of Paris. She had a reputation for promiscuity and may have enjoyed the controversy of posing naked.

The reclining portrait is displayed in the middle of the room and the wooden base once contained a mechanism that allowed the sculpture to rotate. The roles of artwork and spectator were thus reversed and it was the sculpture that moved whilst the spectator stood still and observed the statue from all angles.

David (1623-1624)
Gian Lorenzo Bernini


It was Cardinal Scipione Borghese who commissioned the statue of David confronting the giant Goliath and armed only with a sling. The youth’s determined facial expression is modelled on Bernini himself who at the age of 25 struggled with his tools to work the hard marble.

Apollo and Daphne (1622-1625)
Gian Lorenzo Bernini


The life-size marble sculpture of Apollo and Daphne depicts the god of light pursuing the chaste nymph in vain as she turns into a laurel tree. Bark covers most of Daphne’s body but, according to Ovid’s lines, Apollo’s hand can still feel her heart beating beneath it.

The sculpture is exquisite and seemingly alive with leaves sprouting from Daphne’s fingertips and windswept hair – incredible achievements for a work in stone.

Pluto and Proserpina (1621-1622)
Gian Lorenzo Bernini


The large marble group shows Pluto, powerful god of the underworld, abducting Proserpina, daughter of Ceres.

Again Bernini breathes life into the stone – Proserpina’s hand pushes against Pluto’s face and creases his skin, his fingers sink into the her thigh and tears roll down her marble face.

Venus and Cupid with a Honeycomb (1531)
Lucas Cranach


The painting depicts Venus draped in a transparent veil gazing directly at the spectator. The nude figure is accompanied by the Humanist Chelidonius which reminds us that voluptas is transitory and accompanied by pain, as the little Cupid realises when he tastes the honeycomb with its stinging bees.

Perhaps Cranach was also a fructophobe, Gary Fettke?


One thought on “Museo e Galleria Borghese

  1. Hi Kate, I would have loved to see all these art works. Marnie and I travelled out to the galleria Borghese but the queue was so long for tickets, we were told to leave. We enjoyed walking around the gardens and ventured off to another museo.

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