Welcome to the Gallery, the exhibition space at the heart of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. Here, in the four wings looking onto the internal courtyard with its splendid renaissance arches, as well as the two large adjoining halls, the Aldobrandini Room and the Primitives Room, is where the major part of the masterpieces of the Doria Pamphilj family’s private art collection is housed. Built on the original nucleus of the residence of cardinal Fazio Santoro, dating back to the start of the 16th century, the gallery is the part of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj behind which lies the most interesting and oldest history, made up of nobility, politics, and the unions between some of the most important Italian noble families: from the Della Rovere to the Aldobrandini, from the Pamphilj to the Doria and the Doria Pamphilj. The Doria Pamphilj Gallery, like the rest of the palazzo, is the outcome of 500 years’ worth of additions, annexes and expansion, which form the centuries old splendour we can see today. Come in and explore.
- Aldobrandini Gallery (1st wing)
- The style of decoration used here is known as “Chinese style”, and was carried out by the painter Ginesio del Barba. Since its completion some real masterpieces have found their home in this section. On the left, hang the Aldobrandini lunettes by Annibale Carracci and some of his established students, who brought landscape painting to the level of the more successful genres. Within a few years this category reached high levels of appreciation, as indicated by the career of Claudio Lorrain, whose paintings are hung on the same wall: the most famous of which are the Marriage of Rebecca, and View of Delphi with a procession. Next comes Putti Fighting, by Guido Reni, this is almost a representation of a class war between the tanned cupids (plebeians) and the pale cupids (nobles), painted to thank the Marchese Facchinetti, after the artist had risked being imprisoned for a long stretch because of a quarrel with the Spanish Ambassador. This brings us to the corner, where a CHAMBER containing the masterpiece of the collection is situated, the Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velázquez. This piece was painted at a time of great international political movement, marked by the Papacy’s rapprochement with Spain. The powerful image portrays with great realism, the face, and even soul, of the pontiff. This piece was immediately famous in Rome, though it did not greatly influence the local artists, as is demonstrated when comparing it to the two stone busts of the same pope carved in marble by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and exhibited in the same space. In these stone images, in contrast to painting, Pope Pamphilj is shown with a rhetorically heroic look.
- Gallery of Mirrors (2nd wing)
- Designed by Gabriele Valvassori towards 1730. The frescoes on the vaulted ceiling are of the Bolognese painter Aureliano Miani and are dated between 1731 and ‘34. The subject, Labours of Hercules, was connected to an imaginative idea of the Pamphilj family tree, which supposedly could be traced back to a nephew of the Greek hero.
- Pamphilj Gallery (3rd wing)
- This space was also decorated by Ginesio del Barba, but a few years later than the other. Casting our gaze along the walls, certain paintings stand out, Correggio’s Allegory, Lorrain’s Rest, a sketch for St. Jude by Barocci, Guercino’s St. John the Baptist and St. Agnes, and in the centre Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s view of The Bay of Naples, one of the first paintings of this genre and a rare piece that it is certain was painted in Italy by the great Flemish painter. Above this is the oval by Guido Reni of the Madonna adoring Child, its fame was soon spread by the production of dozens of copies. Going back along this path, between the windows, there is an Adam and Eve in Eden by Jacopo da Ponte, known as Bassano. Higher up is the Madonna with Child and St. John the Baptist by Giovanni Bellini and his collaborator from Romagna, Rondinelli. About half way along is an Egyptian porphyry and bronze bust of Pope Innocent X, sculpted by Alessandro Algardi.
- Fourth Wing
- The extravagant ceiling decorations were applied in the 19th century. This wing starts with Alessandro Algardi’s bust of Olympia Maidalchini Pamphilj, the veil billowing in the wind accentuates the intimate vicinity of the baroque and classical styles, even though at the time they were set as opposites. Algardi managed to make the corpulent princess appear graceful. A short distance away are two remarkable paintings on wood panels by Pamigianino. It is also worth taking your time over Ribera’s St Jerome and a series of extraordinary pieces by Jan Brueghel: the Four elements, two Earthly paradises, and a Vision of St John. Looking back along this wing, at the walls between the windows, certain pieces stand out, such as Marco Basaiti’s St. Sebastian. In the centre there is a bust of Andrea Doria, from 1844.
- Aldobrandini Room
- There are fragments here of frescoes dating back to the oldest origins of the building (1507). This room was enlarged in the 19th century by the architect Andrea Busiri Vici, and again in 1956 when an extraordinary snow fall caused damage to the ceiling and floor. In the centre of the room there is a large coloured marble sculpture of a centaur from the Antonina era, rediscovered in one of the family seats in Albano in the mid-19th century. Along the walls there is a rich series of archaeological sculptures, amongst which are a number of remarkable sarcophagi.
Of the many paintings hanging here it is impossible not to mention two stunning canvasses by the young Caravaggio; his Magdalene, and Rest on the Flight into Egypt. Another painting of a similar scene was painted by the great 17th century painter Pier Francesco Mola, which gave rise to a series of legal contentions between the artists and the commissioning Pamphilj. The large painting of the Deposition by Giorgio Vasari corresponds to this period, it started off life in the Sant’Agostino church, to be bought subsequently by Camillo Pamphilj in 1661. In the centre is the large altarpiece depicting the Sacrifice of Noah, by Ciro Ferri, a baroque painter who undertook various important assignments commissioned by the princes of the Pamphilj family.
- The Primitives Room
- This room houses an important series of paintings executed on wood panels. Since this type of support medium is less susceptible to climatic changes it provides the paintings with great stability over time. Of particular beauty are Filippo Lippi’s Annunciation, Pesellino’s A Miracle of St. Sylvester, Parentino’s St Anthony the Abbot, Giovanni di Paolo’s Virgin, and Domenico Beecafumi’s circular Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine. This space also provides a conspectus of early 16th century Ferrara art with the series of stylistically well matched panels painted by the most important painters of that period: Garofolo, Mazzolino, and Ortolano.
Memling’s splendid Crucifixion is one of the most important examples of Flemish art in the rich Doria Pamphilj collection.