What Is The Borghese Gallery?

September 20, 2022

The Borghese Gallery and Museum is one of the most famous art museums in the world. The gallery, found in Rome, presents an extensive collection of Roman, Italian Renaissance, and Baroque art. The art museum is a jewel that demonstrates the power of art sponsorship and reflects the personal drive of the Borghese family.

The Borghese Gallery dates back to the 17th century. The Borghese family, an Italian noble and papal family, originating in Siena, moved to Rome in the 16th century and quickly grew in wealth and prominence thanks to their ties to the Roman Catholic Church. 

Cardinal Scipione Borghese, Nephew to Pope Paul V, was the founder of Villa Borghese and began the collection. Cardinal Scipione was an avid art enthusiast, being an early patron to the likes of Bernini and Caravaggio.

The Collection

Scipione Borghese’s art collection grew over several years as he bought some masterpieces and coerced artists into giving him others. At the center of his art collection were the Bernini sculptures he had collected – these were his pride and joy. 

As well as containing existing Bernini sculptures, he also commissioned Bernini to create sculptures specifically for his home. And to this day, the Borghese Gallery houses the most extensive collection of Bernini works worldwide.

The Villa was commissioned by architects in the 17th century, built in the style of an Ancient Roman Villa to house the Borghese collection. Architect Flaminio Ponzio initiated the project, which Giovanni Vasanzio ultimately completed. 

The Villa also boasts extensive gardens, which became a separate attraction, the Villa Borghese Gardens.

The Gardens

The former home and museum also feature an exceptional landscape garden. These gardens then became a public park when the Italian government bought the museum, and today, it is the third largest park in Rome.

The gardens were developed for the Villa Borghese Pinciana, translating to the Villa Borghese on Pincian Hill. The gardens are surrounded by the remainder of the Piazzale del Museo Borghese and other villas once part of the large estate.

Laghetto Di Borghese lake is part of the Villa Borghese gardens in Rome, the capital of Italy.

A Villa Becomes A Museum

Throughout four centuries, Villa Borghese was a thriving asset to the Borghese family collection. It remained the property of the Borghese family until 1903.

When the family encountered financial difficulties in the 19th century, Prince Camillo Borghese sold many pieces from the collection to the French state, led by Napoleon Bonaparte. For this reason, the Louvre includes a Borghese Collection, which consists of classical sculptures.

In 1903, the Italian government purchased Villa Borghese and opened it to the public as the Borghese Gallery.

Masterpieces have come and gone, with some works being added or loaned to the collection and some being relocated. However,  the gallery still contains most of Scipione’s original group and is one of the best attractions in Rome.

The Galleria Borghese is famous for its world-renowned collection of Italian artworks from Roman antiquity to Baroque Old Masters. The gallery includes twenty rooms across two floors that hold hundreds of works of art.


The art galleries of the museum are home to masterpieces from the great old masters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Raphael, and Titian. The Galleria is also noteworthy for its significant collection of Caravaggio paintings, including Boy with a Basket of Fruit, a portrait of the artist himself as Bacchus, and St. John the Baptist.

One of the most significant pieces of the whole collection is Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love. The painting has been analyzed and interpreted by thousands of art critics over the years. However, the meaning behind it has never been fully unraveled.


The museum houses some of the finest examples of Roman and Roman-inspired sculptures and busts. There are halls dedicated to the favored sculpture artists of the cardinal, but none so more than Bernini, who has an entire gallery devoted to housing his work.

The Cardinal was a particularly ardent patron of the young sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini and helped him rise to fame in the 17th century. 

One of the most famous pieces in the upper gallery is Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, which depicts Apollo reaching toward Daphne at precisely the moment that her father transforms her into a tree to prevent her from being burned by the sun god.

Another emotive sculpture by Bernini is The Rape of Proserpina, which depicts Proserpina being seized by Pluto to take her to the underworld.


The second floor primarily houses the artworks of the Cardinal and his contemporaries, while the main floor is mainly devoted to classical antiquities of the 1st–3rd centuries AD. 

Some highlights are a famous 320–30 AD mosaic of gladiators found on the estate at Torrenova, on the Via Casilina outside Rome, in 1834, and classical and neo-classical sculptures such as the Venus Victrix.

Baroque marble sculptural group by an Italian artist in Galleria Borghese of Villa Borghese

How Much Is the Entrance?

The standard fee for a gallery ticket and coinciding gardens/park is €27. 

Visitors can also sign up for one of the guided tours with an English-speaking tour guide through the Roma pass, a comprehensive ticket to several of Rome’s attractions, including the Sistine Chapel and The Vatican Museum.

What Are the Hours for the Villa Borghese?

The gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9 am to 7 pm. However, there is no entry after 5 pm. 

It is important to note that due to an increase in popularity, a maximum of 360 people are admitted at a time for two-hour time slot visits according to the following schedule:

  • 9 to 11 a.m.
  • 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • 1 to 3 p.m.
  • 3 to 5 p.m.
  • 5 to 7 p.m.

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