meraviglie di Roma sono il dado di Farnese,
il cembalo di Borghese, la scala di Caetani
e il portone di Carboniani.”
Giuseppe Antonio Guattani,
Roma Descritta ed illustrata, 1805
Palazzo Borghese in the years
Whoever from the Spanish Steps goes towards St. Peter, walking through to Via Condotti, passes by the side of Palazzo Borghese.
The southern facade, which has an austere architectural composition composed by seven spans with a large door in the centre and a high frieze, dates back to the 1560s in the drawings of Martino Longhi il Vecchio inspired by Vignola.
Started upon order of Monsignor del Giglio, whose emblem is still visible in the courtyard, the building is still incomplete when Cardinal Pedro Deza replaces him in 1586. At his death, in 1591, the building became property of Cardinal Camillo Borghese in 1605 on the eve of his accession to the papal throne.
Thanks to a generous funding, Flaminio Ponzio completes the project and ends the construction. He decides on the new extended shape of the building that stretches out towards the river, beyond the area occupied by the square-shaped courtyard which is enriched by forty-eight ancient columns and three large statues.
The availability of the client and the talent of the great architect allow for the development of the building towards the Tiber, with the creation of the Ripetta wing which contains the roof garden, that proves to be an excellent way of protect the big inner Nymphaeum, decorated with statues and three fountains completed at a century later.
On the ground floor of the Ripetta wing a series of richly decorated rooms is created for Cardinal Scipione’s wonderful art colletion, which is subsequently transferred to the new Villa Borghese Gallery and then once again partially and forcibly moved to the Louvre Museum. The rooms for the large family, which were on the noble floors during summer and on the mezzanine in wintertime, were enriched with fresco painted ceilings commissioned to the best artists of the time. At the death of Flaminio Ponzio in 1613, most of the building was completed.
Carlo Rainaldi will then refine the roof garden and enrich Piazza Borghese’s facede with a magnificent portal on which stands the Borghese corps emblem, chiselled during the French Revolution years.
Following the end of Paul V’s pontificate in 1633, his nephew Scipione Borghese will take on the responsibility of completing his work, taking care of the building and of the immense number of properties around Rome.
In 1700 Marcantonio, brother of Cardinal Scipione, kept Palazzo Borghese’s reputation high, and the Palace soon became a mandatory place to visit for the upper-class men during their “Grand Tour” trip around Europe.
Marcatonio also commissioned to the artists who were already working on Casino of Villa Borgese (such as Gaspar Duguet, Caccianiga and Costantini) new decorations for the halls of the Gallery on the ground floor facing Ripetta.
The inauguration of the new headquarters of the Hunt Club in the halls of the first floor and the assignment of the Ripetta wing to the Embassy of Spain dates back to the 1920s.
The Palace regains its original splendour during the second half of the past century thanks to a series of renovation works of the building and the interior decorations. In 1960 the walls on the corner of Piazza Borghese are made more stable, in 1987 the entire length of the grand cornice is renovated and in 1997 the inner courtyard and nymphaeum are renewed, uncovering ancient stucco decorations and renovating fountains (awarded with Sotheby’s prize for the best restoration).