Andrea Doria collected tapestries and silver more than paintings and it is precisely for these exceptional collections of tapestries and precious metal objects, both much more expensive than paintings, that the Palazzo del Principe was famous. Andrea Doria’s successors, including his direct heir Giovanni Andrea I, shared his passion for collecting artwork.
As regards easel paintings, the attention of the Doria family focused on portraits, with the purpose of transmitting the features of the family members to posterity. Indeed an important place among the paintings still in the Villa is held by the likenesses of the members of the family, whether these were commissioned by the Doria themselves or later arrivals.
Another significant part of the Doria collection is formed by portraits of Andrea Doria. The celebrated painting by Sebastiano del Piombo, commissioned by Pope Clement VII in 1526, when Andrea Doria became Supreme Commander of the papal fleet, depicts him at the age of sixty in an austere black robe and wearing an Admiral’s cap. This is considered one of the first examples of a state portrait, and there also exists an allegorical portrait of Andrea Doria designed by Bronzino for Paolo Giovio’s collection of portraits of illustrious men. In this painting, Andrea is celebrated in the guise of god of the sea, his heroic nudity partly inspired by Michelangelo’s David.
A third portrait of Andrea Doria offers a much more realistic representation of the Admiral in his old age, in the company of his cat. Andrea turns his gaze towards the spectator, with a deeply wrinkled face and drooping eyelids over red eyes; in front of him, on a table, are a big tabby cat and a clock.
Since he had no direct descendants, Andrea Doria designated Giannettino as his heir but he was killed during the Fieschi conspiracy of 1547. There exists a splendid portrait of him, attributed to Francesco Salviati, which shows him in three-quarter profile, elegantly dressed. Giannettino’s son Giovanni Andrea I, who then became heir of Andrea Doria, was painted by Alessandro Vaiani wearing the uniform of the Knights of Saint James and accompanied by Roldano, a dog given to him by the Spanish King Philip II. This large dog is also portrayed on a painting by Aurelio Lomi, where an elegantly dressed young page (or a young member of the family) is grooming him with a silver brush. Another famous portrait among the numerous effigies of ladies of the family, is the Portrait of Anna Pamphilj by Jacob Ferdinand Voet, sent in 1671 to her betrothed Giovanni Andrea III Doria.