The splendid small palace that hosts the Borghese Gallery was built at the beginning of the seventeenth century as the private residence and for public representation of the Borghese family. From the very beginning it housed the collection of cardinal Scipio (1579-1633), nephew of Pope Paul the Fifth Borghese.
The picture-gallery had already been transferred there in 1615 and in 1625 about two hundred pieces of ancient sculptures were also transferred there. The original core of the collection testifies cardinal Scipio’s deep interest in antiquity, classicism, and the innovative artistic currents of the time, excluding Medieval art. The collection was increased in the course of time through confiscations, donations, and purchases and was further enriched at the end of the seventeenth century by the inheritance of Olimpia Aldobrandini.
In 1807 prince Camillo Borghese, husband of Paolina Bonapart, had to hand over to Napoleon much of the archaeological collection (154 statues, 160 busts, 170 bass-riliefs, 30 columns, and several vases that today constitute the Borghese Fund at Louvre in Paris). In 1902 the Italian State purchased the rest of the collection and thepalace.
A long restoration has given back the original white marble color to the façade and rebuilt the external double-flight staircase according to the original design. Currently the collection consists of sculptures, bass-riliefs, and ancient mosaics, sixteenth-seventeenth century paintings, and sculptures. They include masterpieces by Antonello da Messina, Giovanni Bellini, Perugino, Pinturicchio, Veronese, Raphael (Deposition), Domenichino (Diana’s hunt), Titian (Sacred and profane love, Venus blindfolding Love), Correggio (Danae), Caravaggio (Youth with a fruit basket, the Madonna of the footmen, David with Goliath’s head), Rubens (Pietà) and magnificent sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Apollo and Daphne, the Rape of Proserpina, David) and Canova (Paolina Borghese).