The Galleria Borghese

Art decorates the Galleria Borghese, a palace turned art gallery, from top to bottom. Mosaics line the floors; paintings work their way up the ceilings–even the insides of the fireplaces are embellished. There are many nudes, but the collector in the 1600s was a cardinal, so he could do as he pleased. 

My favorite sculptor on display is Bernini. He was a Baroque artist, meaning his work expresses emotion and reality (of sorts)–the humans and gods he depicts don’t serenely sit on hilltops. David, carved in marble, visibly struggles to defeat Goliath and Apollo is surprised when Daphne turns into a tree to escape him. Bernini transformed slabs of marble into goddesses with flowing ringlets and into old men with sagging skin. The way he captures the pressing of flesh, the biting of lips, anguish, terror, surprise, gratitude, is stunning. 

The lovely lady Conova sculpted is Napoleon’s sister. She married into the Borghese family, which made Napoleon happy because he wanted the Borghese art collection (and ended up with many of its pieces (brief story here)). The statue of Pauline reclines like a tranquil goddess and holds an apple, a symbol that she is the fairest of them all. As you can see on the Borghese Web site, she’s nude, which caused a minor scandal in the 1800s. Her response: “So what? There was a fire so I wasn’t cold.” Brilliant. Check out the folds and creases of the cushion she’s on–it’s marble! 

Sarah Mikutel