Villa Farnesina

Entertainment & Arts

Europe, Italy, Rome

The Villa Farnesina is an artistically and architecturally influential Renaissance suburban villa in the Via della Lungara, in the district of Trastevere in Rome. The villa was built for Agostino Chigi, a rich Sienese banker and the treasurer of Pope Julius II. Between 1506–1510, the Sienese artist and pupil of Bramante, Baldassarre Peruzzi, aided by Giuliano da Sangallo, designed and erected the villa. The novelty of this suburban villa design can be discerned from its differences from that of a typical urban palazzo (palace). Renaissance palaces typically faced onto a street and were decorated versions of defensive castles: rectangular blocks with rusticated ground floors and enclosing a courtyard. This villa, intended to be an airy summer pavilion, presented a side towards the street and was given a U shaped plan with a five bay loggia between the arms. In the original arrangement, the main entrance was through the north facing loggia which was open. Today, visitors enter on the south side and the loggia is glazed. Chigi also commissioned the fresco decoration of the villa by artists such as Raphael, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giulio Romano, and Il Sodoma. The themes were inspired by the Stanze of the poet Angelo Poliziano, a key member of the circle of Lorenzo de Medici. Best known are Raphael's frescoes on the ground floor; in the loggia depicting the classical and secular myths of Cupid and Psyche, and The Triumph of Galatea. This, one of his few purely secular paintings, shows the near-naked nymph on a shell-shaped chariot amid frolicking attendants and is reminiscent of Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. At first floor level, Peruzzi painted the main salone with trompe-l'œil frescoes of a painted grand open loggia with city and countryside views beyond. The perspective view only works from a fixed point in the room otherwise the illusion is broken. In the adjoining bedroom, Sodema painted scenes from the life of Alexander the Great. The villa became the property of the Farnese family in 1577 (hence the name of Farnesina). Also in the 16th century, Michelangelo proposed linking the Palazzo Farnese on the other side of the River Tiber, where he was working, to the Villa Farnesina with a private bridge. This was not carried through. Later the villa belonged to the Bourbons of Naples and in 1861 to the Spanish Ambassador in Rome. Today, owned by the Italian State, it accommodates the Accademia dei Lincei, a long-standing and renowned Roman academy of sciences, and the Roman Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe (print room or Department for Drawings and Prints). The main rooms of the villa, including the Loggia, are open to visitors (see [1]).