Welcome to the museum of Villa del Principe! You can now visit the private rooms of Prince Andrea Doria.
The rooms of the residence are organized according to an official ranking order. This was a model in use at the Burgundian court and imposed by Charles V for the Spanish court. The first rooms could be accessed by gentlemen of a certain rank whereas in those following access was granted only to members of the court. An explicit invitation from the Prince was required in order to enter the last and more private rooms.
Today this honor is all yours! Come and discover the secrets of the Prince’s apartment.
Hall of Roman Charity
The Hall of Roman Charity was the antechamber of the adjoining Hall of Giants, but for less important occasions it also served as a dining room. The vault fresco by Perino del Vaga represents an episode called Roman Charity. The story, narrated by the Roman historian Valerius Maximus, presents a powerful moral example: an old man, condemned to starvation in prison, is saved by his loving daughter who breastfeeds her father through the bars of the cell when his jailers are not looking. The episode – which ends happily when the young woman’s father is pardoned – was associated with notions of generosity and hospitality. This room also contains preparatory cartoons used for the tapestries of the Battle of Lepanto, an allegorical painting of the Transfer of power from Andrea to Giovanni Andrea I and a series of original documents and family objects, including the Order of the Golden Fleece, an esteemed order of merit granted to Andrea Doria and two of his descendants.
Hall of the Giants
This is the main room of Andrea Doria’s apartments and was the place of the greatest ceremonial significance in the palace and a venue for sumptuous parties and banquets; the throne of Charles V was placed here when the Emperor came to stay at the Villa. Perino del Vaga decorated the large vault with an innovative, single configuration. The artist inscribed his initials in a corner of the large fresco that portrays several tributes to the great masters who worked in Rome whom the artist knew, such as Raphael, Michelangelo and Rosso Fiorentino.
The theme is Jupiter fighting the rebellious Giants. According to the myth narrated by Homer, Hesiod and Apollodorus and later rewritten by Ovid in the first book of Metamorphoses, the Giants attacked Mount Olympus to overthrow the heavenly gods. The fierce fight that ensued was won by the Olympian gods headed by Jupiter. The same scene was also painted in the Palazzo Te in Mantua by Giulio Romano, who had been commissioned by the Gonzaga family in the same years. The choice of this episode is probably not accidental: in both cases it has a political interpretation according to which Jupiter’s victory over the Giants was an allegory of Emperor Charles V triumphant over his enemies.
The fresco is framed by grotesque motifs and scenes of sacrifice inspired by those in the Domus Aurea in Rome. The lunettes below show figures of sea and river divinities.
This room – centred around an imposing fireplace in Carrara marble and pietra di Promontorio (local black stone) – was designed by Perino del Vaga himself and bears a relief with Prometheus giving fire to humans. Also visible in the Hall of Giants are a portrait of the elderly Andrea Doria, one of Roldano, the dog given by King Philip II of Spain to Giovanni Andrea I, and the exquisite tapestries with Stories of Alexander the Great.
Hall of Perseus
The room has walls covered in seventeenth-century velvet, and it was probably used as a bedroom during the winter as it faces south and is therefore warmer during older weather. The lunettes describe the Story of Perseus, a hero forced to take on harsh challenges but capable of restoring peace, an allusion to the virtues of Andrea Doria and to his role of peacemaker of Genoa. Perseus, son of Danae and Jupiter, was given the arduous task by Polydectes of killing Medusa, who could turn anyone to stone with her glance. Thanks to Minerva’s protection, Perseus succeeded in cutting off Medusa’s head and then used it to petrify Polydectes himself. During his adventurous journey, he freed and later married Andromeda, who had been chained to a rock and threatened by a sea monster.
Hall of Sacrifices
Perino del Vaga painted the lunettes of this room with scenes portraying pagan sacrifices to the gods. In the triangles above the lunettes, divinities are represented within hexagonal frames; Juno and Venus are easily recognizable as they are accompanied by a peacock and a dove. In the squares of the vault other mythological figures and scenes are set within small partitions inspired by the ceilings of Nero’s Domus Aurea, which Perino del Vaga knew well. Given the prevalence of religious themes, although they were expressed in classical terms, it is likely that they allude to Andrea Doria’s religious devotion. This room contains three tapestries from the series of the Months, woven in Brussels around 1525.
Hall of the Zodiac
This room derives its name from the zodiac signs depicted in the lunettes. As it suffered war damage in 1944, only the lunettes of the south-east corner have survived, with Pisces and Aquarius; next to the latter, Capricorn is still partly visible, together with a stucco relief of a Phoenix in the centre of the vault. The main theme was certainly the representation of time flowing cyclically, marked by the succession of months and seasons; it is possible that there is also an allusion to Andrea Doria’s horoscope, a frequent Renaissance phenomenon which appears in the better-known fresco by Peruzzi in the Villa Farnesina in Rome, illustrating the horoscope of Agostino Chigi. However, since several significant elements have disappeared, it is impossible to affirm this with certainty.
The Hall of Paris
This room was one of the additions to the original core of the building commissioned by Giovanni Andrea I Doria and contains a single decorative cycle in stucco carried out in the 1590s by the sculptor Marcello Sparzo of Urbino. The theme of the vault, destroyed by the bombings of 1944, was more private and love-related: it depicted the Judgment of Paris which may have alluded to the wedding in 1594 of Giovanni Andrea’s eldest son Andrea II and Giovanna Colonna. There are three splendid pictures in this room by Domenico Piola, painted in 1671 to celebrate the union between Giovanni Andrea III Doria and Anna Pamphilj. In the centre, the heraldic eagle of the Doria family is the protagonist of the scenes, surrounded by putti with symbols of the arts, music and war, an emblem of the patronage and virtues of the family.
Hall of Neptune
The decoration on the vault of the eastern hall was the first deed undertook in the villa by Perin del Vaga: he debuted representing on the ceiling, Neptune pacifying the storm after Enea’s shipwreck,. The artist wanted to use the unusual technique of oil painting on the walls. This granted the effectiveness of the light force but caused a deterioration of the decoration, completely lost in XVIII century.
In 1845 Annibale Angelini painted an architectural and illusionary background centering the Doria Pamphiji stem and the personification of the two rivers Tevere and Eridano: This vast prospective experience, by now heavily darkened, today characterizes the vault of Neptune’s Hall. On the lateral walls are conserved the tapestries of the battle of Lepanto, in the same position for which they were conceived for the last years of 1500, and at the center of the hall, a table with the surface inserted with hard stones.
Hall of Psiche
Similar in the size and structure of its vault to the adjacent Hall of Arachne, this room was severely damaged by the bombings of 1944, which destroyed a large portion of the ceiling. In the lunettes, recovered thanks to careful restoration work, the scene recounts the story of Cupid and Psyche as narrated by Apuleius, a theme that was often used during the Renaissance as a Neoplatonic allegory of love. According to the myth, Cupid (or Eros) is in love with Psyche, a beautiful mortal girl, but she is forbidden to look at him; when one night she lights an oil lamp and turns to gaze at him, a drop of oil falls on the god’s shoulder and he wakes up and leaves her.
Psyche is forced to undergo cruel trials by Venus but she overcomes all the obstacles and, once she becomes immortal, she can finally join her beloved for eternity. In this room hangs the famous portrait of Andrea Doria painted by Sebastiano del Piombo by order of Pope Clement VII in 1526, when the Admiral became supreme commander of the papal fleet. The Hall of Psyche also houses the portraits of Giannettino Doria and Giovanni Andrea I with his dog Roldano.
The Hall of Arachne (or Hall of the Metamorphoses)
The lunettes of this room represent the story inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses of Arachne, who was so proud of her weaving skills that she dared to challenge Minerva to a contest, but when she lost she was turned into a spider and condemned to weave her web for eternity. In the piece she created for the contest, Arachne illustrated Jupiter’s lovers, represented here in part of the lunettes. Twelve allegories of the Arts appear in the pendentives. The vault was restored in 1998. The original layer was not painted as a fresco but in a secco technique, involving two overlapping layers of paint. This is a significant example of the variety of techniques used by the highly-skilled Perino del Vaga.
Showcases display ornamental majolica plates made in the Montelupo workshops in Tuscany and Viterbo. The room has twin tables and a cabinet with seventeenth-century ivory inlays made in Naples.
Hall of Philemon
This small room was defined as a retrocamera to the Hall of Psyche (a smaller room adjoining a bedroom, used as a cloakroom), but most of the sixteenth-century decorations have disappeared under subsequent repainting. In the lunettes of the vault on the north side are two episodes from the story of Philemon and Baucis. An elderly couple welcome Jupiter and Mercury into their home without recognizing who they are, and so as to thank them, they offer Philemon one wish. He asks to be allowed to die together with his wife, and Jupiter grants his wish, turning the old spouses into trees. The other lunettes contain painted landscapes. Also displayed here are a portrait of Francesco II Sforza, from Titian, and a portrait of Cardinal Ferdinand of Habsburg, painted in Rubens’ workshop.
Hall of Phaethon
The lunette paintings in this room, the “retrocamera” of the Hall of Arachne, represent the myth of Phaethon, a celebrated example of punished pride. Phaethon was the son of Apollo, who gave him permission to drive the chariot of the Sun, but the youth was not strong enough to restrain the fiery horses and the chariot went too close to the earth, almost burning it. Jupiter was angered and hurled a thunderbolt at the young man, casting him into the river Eridanus (the Po) and then turning his sisters the Heliades into poplar trees, and their tears into amber. It is one of the most complete cycles ever dedicated to this theme, and probably explains why the iconography found such widespread success in Genoa. The vault is decorated with grotesque figures, and the room is currently used as a bedroom.