The Palace and the Gallery
Built on the original nucleus of the residence of cardinal Fazio Santoro, dating back to the beginning of the 16th century, Palazzo Doria Pamphilj is a blend of art and history, which consists of nobility, politics, and unions between some of the most important Italian noble families: from the Della Rovere to the Aldobrandini Families, from the Pamphilj to the Doria and the Doria Pamphilj Families, to the Facchinetti, Colonna, Borghese, Savoia families and many more. The palace is the result of 500 years of additions, annexes and expansion, which create the centuries-old splendour that can be seen today.
The Doria Pamphilj Gallery is the exhibition space at the heart of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. Here, in the four wings overlooking the internal courtyard with its splendid renaissance arches, as well as the two large adjoining halls, the Aldobrandini Room and the Room of the “Primitives”, is where most of the masterpieces of the Doria Pamphilj family’s private art collection are held. The current appearance of the Gallery is the result of the renovation of the more ancient part of the building, ordered by Prince Camillo Pamphilj junior, and completed between 1731 and 1734. The paintings are arranged according to the late eighteenth-century arrangement, as described in a manuscript of the Doria Pamphilj Historical Archives dated 1767, so visitors can enjoy a unique approach to the art collection in the atmosphere of that time.
The visit begins with the spacious, richly and beautifully decorated and furnished halls of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj.
The Jupiter Room
Starting on the right, we see paintings by J.B. Weenix, G.B. Giovannini and G. Contarini, whose Jupiter, Venus and Juno gives the room its name. The consoles and the armchairs are of the 18th century, as is the central part of the painted ceiling. Its cornice is believed to be a more recent addition of the late 19th century.
The Poussin Room
This vast hall is remarkable for the numerous paintings by Gaspard Dughet, also known in Italian as Gaspard Poussin, after the last name of his brother-in-law, Nicolas Poussin. Dughet specialized in landscapes of the Roman Campagna, conveyed here for the first time with great lyricism and intensity. The large canvases higher up, except for those between the windows, date to 1653/54 and have figures painted by Guillaume Courtois. They were probably commissioned by prince Camillo for his residences in Valmontone and Nettuno in Lazio, but were shortly after brought to Rome. Below these, hanging along all the walls, are a series of landscapes in varying formats, devoid of human figures: they range from immense to more modest sizes, and include narrow verticals and long horizontals made for overdoors. Many of these pieces were created as precious objects painted on both sides and designed to divide spaces and probably to decorate and protect beds, in a style that appears to be influenced by the relation between European art and the Far East.
The Velvet Room
The walls are covered with ancient gloriously damasked velvet fabrics that give the room its name. There are two important portrait busts in this room by Alessandro Algardi, in addition to the valuable furniture topped with black and white Aquitaine marble. These coloured stones were often taken from fragments of archaeological remains and re-used, generally in the Baroque period, as can be seen in many other pieces in the Gallery. Two of the four main canvases, Hagar and the Angel and Abraham and Isaac, are attributed to Pasquale Chiesa, a recently rediscovered painter from Genoa. The other Hagar is by the young Mattia Preti. The series of three canvases with Apollo and the Muses, by the Florentine Renaissance painter Giuliano Bugiardini, was complemented by a fourth with The Arts by the Roman painter Marco Benefial in 1713.
The Ballroom used to be called the “Music Room” and is made up of two connecting spaces. It was entirely renovated at the end of the nineteenth century by Andrea Busiri Vici. The grisaille on the curved part of the ceiling is the only detail from the original decoration. Amongst the objects worth noting in the orchestra stall are a 1767 Bird Cage, an 18th-century Harp, and two antique liveries. The ceiling of the adjoining space was painted by Antonio Nessi around 1768 and contains valuable paintings.
The Cadmus Room
This room leads into the Gallery and connects the great halls to the First Wing. The ceiling with Cadmus and the Dragon was decorated between 1707 and 1769, and the paintings in the room are hung in the original eighteenth-century arrangement. Various genre scenes, drawn from prototypes by David Teniers, can be admired, such as the Sellers of Vegetable, Poultry and Fish, enlarged derivations from details of Teniers’ Flemish Kermesse (displayed in the First Wing).
The First Wing
The style of decoration here was known as “in the Chinese manner” and was carried out by the painter Ginesio del Barba in the 1730s. Upon its completion some of the Doria Pamphilj masterpieces were placed in this section. On the left, the so-called “Aldobrandini Lunettes” by Annibale Carracci and some of his established students, who brought landscape painting to the level of the more successful genres. Within a few years this category became highly appreciated, as indicated by the career of Claude Lorrain, whose paintings hang on the same wall; the most famous of these are the Marriage of Rebecca and the View of Delphi with a procession. Further ahead, the Fighting Putti by Guido Reni is almost a representation of a class conflict between the tanned cupids (plebeians) and the pale ones (nobles); it was painted in gratitude to the Marchese Facchinetti, who prevented the imprisonment of the artist after a quarrel with the Spanish Ambassador.
The Velázquez Cabinet
The chamber contains the masterpiece of the collection, the Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velázquez dated 1650. This piece was painted at a time of great shifts in international politics, marked by the Papacy’s rapprochement with Spain. The powerful image portrays the face, and even soul, of the Pontiff with such great realism that he exclaimed: “Too true!”. This picture promptly became famous in Rome, although it did not greatly influence local artists, as is clear when compared (in this room) to one of the two busts of the Pope carved in marble by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. In contrast with the painting, these stone representations show the Pamphilj Pope with a rhetorically heroic look.
The Hall of Mirrors
Designed by Gabriele Valvassori in about 1730, the Gallery alternates gold-framed Venetian mirrors and antique archaeological statues. The frescoes on the vaulted ceiling were painted by the Bolognese artist Aureliano Milani between 1731 and 1734. The subject, the Labours of Hercules, was imaginatively connected with the Pamphilj family tree, which supposedly could be traced back to a nephew of the Greek hero.
The Rooms on the Corso
The sixteenth-century smaller rooms overlooking the Via del Corso at the end of the Hall of Mirrors were renovated by the architect Gabriele Valvassori in 1731. The pavilion vaults were decorated with fanciful architecture by the Bolognese artist and scene painter Pompeo Aldobrandini. The rooms show a collection of landscape paintings from the various Doria Pamphilj villas and the ‘still lifes’ painted in oil on copper by Jan van Kessel the Elder with an almost miniature technique, which provide an example of the preciousness and refined skill of the Flemish artist.
In the Second Room you can admire, side by side, the two marvellous canvases with the ‘Penitent Magdalene’ and the ‘Rest during the Flight into Egypt’ by the young Caravaggio, as well as his St. John the Baptist.
The Tenerani Cabinet
The cabinet contains three nineteenth-century busts of prince Filippo Andrea V Doria Pamphilj, his wife Lady Mary Alethea Beatrix Talbot Doria Pamphilj and her sister Lady Catherine Gwendoline Talbot Borghese, much loved by Romans for their tireless charitable works. The busts, by the purist sculptor Pietro Tenerani, a student of Canova, were commissioned by prince Filippo Andrea V in 1850.
The Third Wing
This space was also decorated by Ginesio del Barba around 1730. Casting our gaze along the walls, certain paintings stand out: Correggio’s Allegory, Claude Lorrain’s Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, a sketch of Saint Jude by Barocci, Guercino’s Saint John the Baptist and Saint Agnes, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s View of the Bay of Naples, one of the first paintings of this genre and a rare piece that was certainly painted in Italy by the great Flemish painter in the first half of the sixteenth century. Above this is the oval by Guido Reni of the Virgin adoring the Child, whose fame soon spread through the creation of dozens of copies. Further ahead, between the windows, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden by Jacopo da Ponte, known as Bassano. Above it is the wonderful Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist by Giovanni Bellini. About half way along is an Egyptian porphyry and bronze bust of Pope Innocent X, sculpted by Alessandro Algardi.
The Aldobrandini Hall
There are traces here of frescoes dating back to the earliest parts of the building (1507). This room, referred to at that time as a “sala pulcherrima depicta” (most beautiful painted room), was enlarged and restored in the 19th century by the architect Andrea Busiri Vici, and again in 1956 when a heavy snowfall caused severe damage to the ceiling and floor. In the centre of the room there is a large coloured marble sculpture of a Centaur from the Antonine era, rediscovered in one of the family residences in Albano in the mid-19th century. Along the walls are a series of ancient sculptures, including a number of remarkable sarcophagi. Among the many masterpieces in this room it is impossible not to mention the ‘Salome with the Head of the Baptist’, one of Titian’s early masterpieces, Raphael’s ‘Double Portrait’ and Guercino’s ‘Sleeping Endymion’.
The large panel with the ‘Deposition’ by Giorgio Vasari, the altarpiece with the ‘Noah’s Sacrifice’ painted by Ciro Ferri, and the delicate ‘Landscape with Rest during the Flight into Egypt’ by Pier Francesco Mola, one of the great painters of mid-seventeenth-century Rome, are on the fireplace wall.
The Green Room
This room houses an important series of paintings executed on wood panels. Since this type of support is less susceptible to changes in climate it provides the paintings with great stability over time. Particularly beautiful are Filippo Lippi’s Annunciation, Pesellino’s Miracle of Saint Sylvester, Parentino’s Saint Anthony Abbot, Giovanni di Paolo’s Stories of the Virgin, and Domenico Beccafumi’s circular Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine. This space also provides an overall view of early 16th-century Ferrarese art with a series of stylistically well-matched panels painted by the most important artists of that period: Garofalo, Mazzolino and Ortolano. Memling’s splendid Lamentation is one of the most important examples of the richness of the Doria Pamphilj collection as regards Flemish art.
The Fourth Wing
This wing begins with Alessandro Algardi’s bust of Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj, whose veil, caught in a gentle breeze, accentuates the close proximity of the Baroque and Classical styles, even though at the time they were set as opposites. Algardi succeeds in making the portly princess graceful. A short distance away are two remarkable paintings on wood panels by Parmigianino. It is also worth taking time to admire Ribera’s Saint Jerome and a series of extraordinary pieces by Jan Brueghel: the series of Four Elements, two versions of The Earthly Paradise and a Vision of Saint John. Looking at the walls between the windows on this wing, certain pieces stand out, such as Marco Basaiti’s Saint Sebastian. In the centre there is a bust of Andrea Doria, dated 1844.