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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in August 2010.

Palazzo Borghese (Book 4) (Map C2) (Day 4) (View C5) (Rione Campo Marzio)

In this page:
The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
Today's view
Palazzo Borghese
Ancillary buildings
Eagles and Dragons
Piazza di Monte d'Oro (Ospizio di Liegi)

The Plate (No. 69)

Palazzo Borghese was built in a relatively short period of time (1560-1614), but it is the result of a series of additions, rather than the completion of a comprehensive initial project; in this etching Giuseppe Vasi tried to show all three sections of the palace: a) the regular XVIth century southern fašade (far right); b) the angled and very long western fašade; c) the terrace facing Porto di Ripetta; Palazzo Borghese was called il Cembalo (harpsichord) in an attempt to explain its unusual shape.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Main entrance to the palace along Strada dei Condotti; 2) Prospect of the palace over Porto di Ripetta; 3) Building for the Borghese "family" (in the sense of assistants and servants); 4) Stables and coach house. 2) is shown in another page. The small map shows also 5) Piazza di Monte d'Oro.


The view in June 2010: (left) western side; (right) southern side

The exterior of Palazzo Borghese is unchanged from the time of the etching exception made for the loss of the coat of arms of Pope Paul V, which Filippo Juvarra sketched in his book on the finest papal coats of arms. The stables and the coach house have been replaced by a modern building; today the square houses stalls selling old books and prints. The Borghese still live in a section of their family palace.

(left) Section facing the river; (right) view from Palazzo Borghese towards Via Condotti and SS. TrinitÓ dei Monti

Palazzo Borghese

(left) Western entrance; (right) small columns of granite and cipollino

The construction of Palazzo Borghese was started by Monsignor Tommaso Del Giglio and it was continued by Cardinal Pedro de Deza: at the cardinal's death in 1600 the fašade along Via Condotti was completed; many art historians attribute the design of this section to Martino Longhi. In 1604 Cardinal Camillo Borghese bought the building, which he bequeathed to members of his family after he was elected Pope Paul V in May 1605.
The Borghese commissioned Flaminio Ponzio the enlargement of the palace; a fašade almost identical to that in Via Condotti was built in the western side of the block; in 1607 an adjoining building was bought by the Borghese and the western fašade was prolonged (with an angle); in 1612-14 a sort of hanging garden was built opposite Porto di Ripetta.
Piazza Borghese, the square in front of the western fašade, was also known as Piazza delle Catene, because of the chains placed on the small columns surrounding the entrance.

Views of the central courtyard and behind it of the secret garden

The Borghese and in particular Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of the pope, were avid collectors of antiquities and paintings which they used for the decoration of their town palace and their suburban Villa; today the paintings which were housed in Palazzo Borghese constitute the bulk of of those shown at Galleria Borghese.
The Borghese placed three gigantic statues in the courtyard of their palace; they are the result of assembling different ancient fragments which were then completed by modern sculptors; that shown in the image used as background for this page is known as Apollo Citaredo, but the head is that of a woman and not of the god.

Secret garden

The palace included a small garden which was redesigned by Johann Paul Schor and Carlo Rainaldi in 1671-77; its fountains were decorated with statues by Leonardo Retti, Filippo Carcani and Francesco Cavallini, all scholars of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

Ancillary Buildings

Palazzo della famiglia Borghese

Cardinal Scipione Borghese had a personal court of more than 200 people; because he shared Palazzo Borghese with other members of the family, he built a completely independent palace for his assistants and servants; during his lifetime it was called Palazzo della famiglia del Cardinale; the design of the building is rather simple, but not without grace.

(left) Modern building which has replaced the stables; (right) central entrance to Palazzo della famiglia Borghese

Eagles and Dragons

Heraldic symbols in Piazza Borghese

Eagles and dragons are the heraldic symbols of the Borghese; those shown above are just some of the many ones which decorate the Borghese properties.

Piazza di Monte d'Oro

(left) Piazza di Monte d'Oro; (centre) madonnella at the corner with Via dell'Arancio; (right) inscription on the building housing Ospizio di Liegi

Today the area behind Palazzo Borghese is void of interest because of the many changes made when Via Tomacelli was opened; this street begins at Ponte Cavour and it ends in front of SS. TrinitÓ degli Spagnoli. The new street has reduced the size of Piazza di Monte d'Oro, a square shown in Vasi's 1781 Map of Rome (section B2), which was named after an existing inn; the street between the palace and the square is called Via dell'Arancio, a reference to the orange trees on the terrace of Palazzo Borghese; one of the buildings of the square housed an institution for the pilgrims from LiŔge, the main town of the French-speaking part of Belgium.

Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:

Palazzo Borghese
A sinistra della detta chiesa si vede il magnifico palazzo, che per la sua forma dicesi il cembalo di Borghese. Fu questo principiato dal Card. Deza Spagnolo, ma poi fu terminato da Paolo V. per dare comoda abitazione ai suoi nipoti. Quella parte, che corrisponde sul porto di Ripetta Ŕ disegno di Flaminio Ponzio, il resto per˛ verso la piazza Ŕ di Martin Lunghi il vecchio. ╚ notabile il gran cortile ornato con portici doppi sostenuti da cento colonne tutte di granito egizio: gli appartamenti sono ricchi di quadri insigni, e di arredi preziosi: fra tutti Ŕ distinta la cappella domestica per le molte reliquie giojellate, e l'appartamento di D. Giacomo fratello del Principe, ornato, di cose rare e pellegrine; perci˛ sarÓ pi¨ gradito al lettore il vederle, che il sentirne la narrazione, tanto pi¨, che dal custode viene tutto mostrato.

Next plate in Book 4: Palazzo Madama
Next step in Day 4 itinerary: Collegio Clementino
Next step in your tour of Rione Campo Marzio: Collegio Clementino