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About Galleria Borghese

Villa Borghese "outside Porta Pinciana", within which the gallery is located, rose at the beginning of the 17th century on a family property, to which other plots of land were gradually added, until an immense park was constituted. The rapid ascent in Rome of the Borghese family, which was originally from Siena, culminated in the election as pope of Camillo (1605-1621), who took the name of Paul V and began the great era of urban works and extraordinary feats of art collecting.

With the ascension to the papal throne of Paul V Borghese, his nephew, Cardinal Scipione Cafarelli Borghese (1577-1633), began to intensely commission architecture and at the same time to acquire works of art that would make his collection one of the largest of his time.

By confiscating the paintings in Cavalier d'Arpino's studio in 1607 he gained possession of about 100 works, including several youthful ones by Caravaggio. In the same year he acquired the patriarch of Aquileia's collection, while in 1608 he obtained 71 extraordinary paintings belonging to Cardinal Sfondrato. Cardinal Scipione Borghese's extreme unscrupulousness in obtaining works of art and in indulging his passion as a modern collector is shown in numerous episodes, such as his acquisition in 1605 of Caravaggio's Madonna and Child with St. Anne which had been rejected by the Confraternity shortly before it was to be displayed in the chapel in St. Peter's - perhaps as ordered by the pope himself and the incredible theft of Raphael's Deposition, which was removed on behalf of Scipione from the Convent of San Francesco a Prato in Perugia, lowered from the town walls during the night between March 18 and 19, 1608 and subsequently declared "the cardinal's private property" by Paul V.

The collection of ancient sculptures, the other fundamental element able to confer an aura of ideal universality on collections of art had been constantly expanding and the splendor of these archaeological marbles was complemented by the "modern" statuary of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, executed for the cardinal from 1615-1623.

In accordance with the cardinal's will, at his death all his movable property and real estate were subjected to a very stringent fideicommissum, a legal institution that kept the collection together until the end of the 18th century. At the end of the 17th century, the Borghese family could count on a collection of about 800 paintings and one of the most famous collections of antiquities in Rome, in addition to vast holdings of real estate. It was precisely the archaeological collection that aroused the interest of Napoleon Bonaparte whose sister Pauline (1780-1825) had married Prince Camillo Borghese (1775-1832). Following their sale, which was forcibly imposed by the emperor in 1807/8 the sculptures were removed from their original setting and transported to the Louvre where they now constitute one of the essential components of the archaeological collection.

In the following years, through replacements made by recovering statues and new excavations, the Villa on the Pincio acquired the appearance that we can admire today. We owe to Camillo two of the Villa's most famous masterpieces: the sculpture of Paolina Bonaparte as Venus Victrix by Antonio Canova and Correggio's Danae, which he purchased in 1827. In 1833 the prince renewed the fideicommissum, thus preserving the collection in its entirety until the Italian government acquired the Museum and the Gallery in 1902.

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