The Borghese Gallery

About the Borghese Gallery

The Borghese Gallery is a prestigious art gallery in central Rome, established in the 17th century to exhibit Cardinal Scipione Borghese's remarkable collection of paintings, sculptures, and antiquities. A testament to the artistic legacy of a passionate patron of the arts.

Housing an exceptional collection of sculptures, the gallery showcases the works of prominent artists such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Antonio Canova. The former, a master of Baroque art, is renowned for his expressive and dynamic figures, while the later was a leading figure in Neoclassical sculpture.

Visitors can also get an intimate look at pioneering painters, including Caravaggio, known for his dramatic use of light and shadow, and Raphael, a master of the High Renaissance. The diversity of styles and artists within the gallery allows visitors to appreciate the evolution and intricacies of arts throughout different historical periods.

Borghese Gallery Highlights

The Borghese Gallery's Collection

The main attraction at the Borghese Gallery is undoubtedly its unique collection of sculptures, paintings, and antiquities that span numerous periods and styles.

In its 20 rooms, iconic works of Baroque art, such as Bernini's dynamic sculptures and Caravaggio's dramatic paintings, sit side by side with High Renaissance masterpieces by the likes of Raphael and a treasure trove of Roman, Greek and Etruscan antiquities.

The thematic layout of the gallery, divided between the ground floor dedicated primarily to sculpture and the first floor dedicated to paintings, allows for an immersive, chronologically arranged journey through art history.

Villa Borghese Gardens

Spread across 80 hectares, the Villa Borghese Gardens are Rome’s third largest park and one of the finest spots for relaxation on long day of touring the city.

While the Borghese Gallery is the obvious pole of attraction, the English-style garden with its lush greenery, peaceful lakes, and beautiful fountains has a lot more to share.

From leisurely strolls, picnics, or even a boat ride on the lakes, to attractions like the Bioparco di Roma, Rome's zoological garden, and the Pincian Hill with its breathtaking views of the city, there’s plenty to see and do. Just make sure to grab a coffee or gelato from one of the many cafés in the park and you are set to begin your exploration of this tranquil oasis.

Interesting facts about the Borghese Gallery

What is the Borghese Gallery? 

The Borghese Gallery is an art gallery in central Rome that was created in the 17th century to house and display Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s collection of paintings, sculptures and antiquities. Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Pope Paul V, was an avid art collector and patron of the arts.

Over the centuries the Borghese Collection expanded and includes major works by Caravaggio, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Raphael and Titian. After a series of renovations and additions, the entire estate and surrounding gardens were sold to the Italian government and the Borghese Gallery formally opened its doors to the general public in 1903.

When was the Borghese Gallery built?

Construction of the country villa where the Borghese Gallery is housed began in 1613 and was completed four years later, in 1617. The main architect for the project was Flaminio Ponzio, who designed the villa based on Cardinal Borghese's designs and specifications.

As a suburban retreat designed to entertain guests and display the Borghese Collection, the exquisitely decorated building was U-shaped with two main floors and several loggias overlooking the surrounding gardens. The 20 rooms in the villa have since been renovated and redesigned in a more unified, thematic space to showcase the extensive art collection.

What makes the Borghese Gallery so special?

Nestled within the vast Villa Borghese Gardens, the Borghese Gallery is considered one of the greatest museums, attracting art enthusiasts from around the globe. The gallery is famed for its unrivalled collection of Bernini's works, which includes sculptures such as “Apollo and Daphne” and “David”. Additionally, the gallery features an exceptional assortment of paintings by Caravaggio, Raphael and Titian, contributing to its reputation as a crucial hub for art history.

What sets the Borghese Gallery apart from larger museums though, is its intimate ambiance, which grants visitors a personal, immersive experience, allowing for in-depth exploration and appreciation of the art.

Must see inside the Borghese Gallery

'Apollo and Daphne'
by Bernini

The striking composition by Gian Lorenzo Bernini depicts the dramatic climax of Apollo's pursuit of the nymph Daphne, as she transforms into a laurel tree.

Completed in 1625, “Apollo and Daphne” is regarded as a masterpiece of Baroque art for its dynamic realism and emotional intensity. According to Greek mythology, the Olympian god was struck by an arrow of love and desire, while the nymph with an arrow of aversion that caused her to reject Apollo's advances. Apollo pursued her relentlessly and Daphne cried out to her father, the river god Peneus, who transformed her into a laurel tree to save her. Distraught and heartbroken, Apollo declared the laurel tree sacred and wore its leaves as a symbol of his eternal devotion.

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'David with the Head of Goliath'
by Caravaggio

As one of Caravaggio’s last paintings, his rendition of “David with the Head of Goliath” stands out not only for its masterful use of light and shadow, but also its complex symbolism. Completed in the early 1600s, the biblical painting was gifted to Cardinal Borghese in hopes of securing a papal pardon. In the painting, Goliath’s head appears to be a self-portrait of Caravaggio, while the triumphant David gazes down pensively, with hints of sadness, compassion and remorse.

Beyond the compelling speculation of real-life inspiration, the fusion of technique and emotive storytelling in “David with the Head of Goliath” showcases Caravaggio’s distinct style that revolutionized Western art and influenced generations of artists.

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by Raphael

Painted between 1507 and 1508, the “Deposition” (or “The Entombment”) by Raphael depicts the biblical scene of Christ’s body being carried to his tomb.

Commissioned by the Baglioni family in Perugia, a major uproar was caused when it was relocated to Rome. Raphael’s use of color, composition and the emotional depth of the figures brings a profound sense of realism and intensity to the scene. The High Renaissance artist spent about two years studying and sketching drafts on what was one of his final works during his Florentine period. As such, the narrative painting marks a transition in Raphael’s style towards the more dramatic and complex compositions of his Roman period that was to come.

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Navigating the Borghese Gallery

The Borghese Gallery and Museum displays its vast collection of sculptures, paintings and mosaics in its 20 frescoed rooms and storerooms. On the ground floor you will find the Mariano Rossi entrance hall, the Paolina room, the David room, the Apollo and Daphne room, the Room of Emperors, the Hermaphrodite room, the Aeneas and Anchises room, the Egyptian room, the Silenus room, the Chapel and Porch.

On the second floor you can visit the Dido room, the Hercules room, the room of Ferrarese Painting, the room of the Bacchantes, the Fame room, the Lanfranco Loggia, the Aurora room, the Flora room, the Court of Angers room, the Jupiter and Antiope room, the Helen and Paris room, the Psyche room, the Vestibule and Passageway.

The Storerooms are located on the third floor and feature three main rooms to display over 260 works, organized according to school of painting and subject matter. Visits to the Storerooms is limited to small number of people and only during set days. In the basement area of the Borghese Gallery you will also find an information, a café, restrooms, a bookshop and cloakroom.

For more information check our complete Visitor's Guide.

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