History and contents of the Borghese Gallery:
Scipione Caffarelli Borghese, son of Ortensia Borghese was elected to the cardinalate by his Uncle, Camillo Borghese, upon becoming Pope (Paul V) in 1605. Cardinal Scipione was charged with handling diplomatic and cultural affairs at the Papal Court, and rapidly developed an extremely shrewd and voracious eye for collecting works of art. He collected with a passion - often a ruthless one - and his passions were for ancient, Renaissance and contemporary pieces that he hoped would fire a new golden age.
He was especially a collector of antique sculpture, but was also driven enough to patronise modern artists and commissioned work from, amongst others, Caravaggio, Bernini, Domenichino and Rubens.
It was to house the works of these artists, alongside his existing collections, and to have a venue for his summer parties and musical evenings, that work began in the early 1600's on the casino or summer-house that is today the Galleria Borghese. Not surprisingly, no corners were cut in the construction, and the palace is a celebration of the splendours of the ancient Roman Empire.
The building has been modified and extended down the years, and was eventually sold to the Italian government in 1902, along with the entire Borghese estate and surrounding gardens and parkland.
Below you'll find a small selection of some of the most noted works to be viewed at the gallery: