Rome

An Artist’s Guide To The Top 10 Borghese Gallery Highlights

One man – Cardinal Scipione Borghese – is responsible for amassing one of the world’s best collections of sculpture and paintings. The Borghese Gallery in Rome hosts the collection of the Borghese family which includes ancient Roman art and Old Masters by greats like Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael and the best collection of marble statues by Bernini. The original collection includes over 800 paintings, many of which were sold to the Louvre and are now displayed in the collection there. The gallery building itself known as Villa Borghese is a work of art and filled with frescoes and decorative art. Here is a Borghese Gallery guide on how to explore the museum and what one should not miss there!

Scroll right to the bottom and get some great first hand tips on how to crush the Borghese Gallery visit in just a couple of hours

The Borghese Gallery Floor Plan


Before looking at the highlights of the Borghese Gallery, here is a quick summary of the floor plan. This, along with the 3 linked images - lower floor, first floor and second floor should help you chart out your visit.

The Borghese Gallery is spread across two floors and the ground floor has eight rooms while the first floor has 12 rooms. There is also a third floor which is known as the ‘Deposits’ and is a storage of over 260 paintings that could not find space in the Gallery.

The Ground Floor of the Borghese Gallery has a large entrance hall around which the rooms are numbered in a clockwise direction. This floor includes the Hall of Apollo and Daphne, Hall of the Emperors, Gladiator Room and Egyptian Room. The staircase between Room 3 & 4 leads to the first floor.

The First Floor of the Borghese Gallery also has rooms encircling the area above the entrance hall. However, the rooms are smaller than on the ground floor. This floor includes Hall of Hercules, Hall of Fame, Flora Rooms and Psyche Room.

Top 10 highlights of the Borghese Gallery


While it is hard to boil down the top 10 from over a thousand works of art, here are the definite must sees while visiting the Borghese Gallery. To keep things fair, we have divided it into 2 sections:

Top 5 Borghese Gallery Sculptures
Top 5 Borghese Gallery Paintings

Top 5 Borghese Gallery Sculptures


1

Paolina Borghese Bonaparte Come Venere Vincitrice

Sculptor: Antonio Canova
Room I - Sala della Paolina
borghese gallery highlights

The things one does for love! This sculpture of a beautiful woman is of Paolina Borghese Bonaparte, the younger sister of Napoleon Bonaparte and the wife of Prince Camillo Borghese. He wanted her statue made in the image of Venus to cement her position in the society and a celebration of her beauty.

2

Apollo and Daphne

Sculptor: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Room III – Hall of Apollo and Daphne
borghese gallery highlights

How the fates work against love, this dynamic sculpture by Bernini tells the tale of Apollo who has struck by a golden arrow and falls in love with the nymph Daphne. But, she was hit with a lead arrow and prays to change her features. Ultimately, prayers take over, and Daphne turns into a Laurel tree even as Apollo is approaching her!

3

Ratto Di Proserpina (Rape of Proserpina)

Sculptor: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Room IV – Hall of Emperors
borghese gallery highlights

The sculpture showcases the myth of Pluto, the god of the underworld, who abducts Proserpina from the shores of Lake Pergusa. One look at the statue and you get a vivid sense of the young woman resisting her capture and the male god’s force holding her back. It is best captured where Pluto sinks his hand in Proserpina’s thigh; you will forget it’s wrought in marble!

4

David

Sculptor: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Room II – Sala sel Sole
borghese gallery highlights

The legend of David and Goliath has inspired many artists and sculptors over centuries, but none more than Bernini who created this masterpiece. The focused concentration on David’s face, the taut muscles and the movement of his figure as he is stretching his sling showcases David’s eagerness to defeat Goliath.

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5

La Verità (The Truth)

Sculptor: Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Room VI – Hall of the Gladiator
borghese gallery highlights

The sculpture ‘Truth unveiled by Time’ never saw the light of day; it remained incomplete. The sculpture represents a young woman as Truth, and she is holding a sun and has her foot on the globe. The figure of time above her was never completed! Bernini made it in a difficult period of his career after his unsuccessful stint at expanding St. Peter’s Basilica.

Top 5 Borghese Gallery Paintings


1

Dama con Liocorno (Young Woman with Unicorn)

Artist: Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael)
Room IX – Sala di Didone
borghese gallery highlights

Touted to be a wedding gift, this masterpiece by Raphael shows all the virtues and symbols of a young bride. The young Florentine woman depicted in the painting adorns a typical 16th-century dress and wears jewelry that indicates marital bonds, virginity, and spiritual love. Even the unicorn is used as a symbol of virginity here.

2

David Con La Testa Di Golia (David with the head of Goliath)

Artist: Caravaggio
Room VIII – Sala di Didone
borghese gallery highlights

Legend and reality come together in this masterpiece by Caravaggio. The painting was done by him in Naples when he was in exile on charges of murder. He drew the face of David in his image and sent the painting to Cardinal Borghese to deliver to the Pope to obtain forgiveness and allow for a return to Rome. While pardon was granted, Caravaggio died on his way to Rome!

3

Amor Sacro E Amor Profano (Sacred and Profane Love)

Artist: Tiziano Vecellio (Titian)
Room XX – Psyche Roome
borghese gallery highlights

The painting depicts a scene from the wedding of a Venetian couple Nicolo and Laura in the 16th Century. The fully-clothed woman is the bride, and the naked woman is the symbol of purity, while Cupid is swirling the waters to symbolize the need for a woman to be chaste and passionate at the same time. The painting indicates the imposition of morals on women of the times.

4

Autoritratto In Veste Di Bacco (Bacchino Malato)

Artist: Caravaggio
Room VIII – Sala di Sileno
borghese gallery highlights

Caravaggio painted himself as Bacchus, the god of wine and intoxication, in this realistic painting. It is assumed that the painting was drawn when Caravaggio himself was sick and admitted in the hospital, and hence the unhealthy representation of the god in the painting.

5

Melissa

Artist: Dosso Dossi
Room III – Hall of Apollo and Daphne
borghese gallery highlights

Melissa is the myth of the sorceress ‘Melissa’ who was said to have freed Christian knights from the prison of the evil Alcina who had transformed them into stones, trees, and animals. The painting is oil on canvas and rich in both detail and colors as it portrays a female complete with all her bewitching regalia.

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How To Crush Your Borghese Gallery Visit In 2 hours?


The Borghese Gallery allows one to stay inside only for 2 hours from the time stamped on their ticket. While this may sound like a hurried affair, especially for art lovers, it really is not. Here are a few tips that will help you manage your time in the gallery better.

  • You can head straight to the first floor as most people explore the ground floor first. This way you can get ahead and admire the artworks on the first floor and then make your way to the ground floor, ensuring you don’t have to compete with others for space. Also, the rooms on the first floor are smaller and hence good to avoid the rush.
  • Please do arrive at the Borghese Gallery at least 45 minutes prior to your time slot. You will have to check-in your baggage in the locker room in the basement of the gallery. If you reach just in time, you will waste time as people from the previous slot will be around taking their baggage.
  • A great way to time your visit well is by using an audio guide; you can collect the audio guide from the basement of the gallery. The audio guide comes in five languages – English, Italian, French, German and Spanish, and costs € 5.
  • You have to ensure you finish everything in 1 hour 50 minutes as the last few minutes the management ensures you are out to accommodate for the next two hour slot.
  • The Borghese Gallery is open late till 9:00 PM on Thursdays, and since not many people are aware of it you will experience fewer crowds and more time to spend right in front of the artwork.
  • The Deposits or the Third Floor of the museum is now open to visitors. You can visit it with a € 2 booking fee and by booking it on the official website. The Deposits are open only via guided tours on Wednesday and Saturday at 3:30 PM. This ticket does not include a ticket to the Borghese Gallery main sections; you will have to purchase a separate ticket.
  • If you're planning to visit the Borghese Gardens, here's a quick guide that will help you hit up the hidden gems of the Villa Borghese Gardens with a map to help you find the spots!

Is A Guided Tour Of The Borghese Gallery Recommended?


Each day, there are five time slots when guests can visit the Borghese Gallery. Each time slot lasts for two hours and at the end of the two hours, everyone is required to exit the museum and a fresh lot is allowed in. As result, Borghese Gallery tickets are highly valuable and tend to sell out quickly. One of the best ways to make the most of your 2 hours and get guaranteed tickets is to opt for a guided tour.

The Borghese Gallery has only twenty rooms so it seems that you can manage to explore the museum, but you also have only two hours to do it in! The artwork including hundreds of sculptures and paintings are created by Italian masters and have a lot of myths, stories, and legends behind them. An expert local art guide would be able to narrate these stories and help you appreciate the value of the artwork. For a small upgrade, you can get a guided tour of the Borghese Gallery and the Gardens to explore and enjoy these art treasures.

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