National Gallery of Ancient Art in Barberini Palace

Baroque palace with renowned collection of artworks by Tintoretto, El Greco, Caravaggio & more. The Palazzo Barberini (English: Barberini Palace) is a 17th-century palace in Rome, facing the Piazza Barberini in Rione Trevi. Today, it houses the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, the main national collection of older paintings in Rome.


Around 1549 Cardinal Alessandro Sforza came into possession of the garden/vineyard of Cardinal Rodolfo Pio da Carpi on the Quirinal Hill, where the Sforza family, had a palazzetto built. The sloping, semi-urban site was purchased in 1625 from Alessandro Sforza, Duca di Segni by Maffeo Barberini, of the Barberini family, who became Pope Urban VIII.

Three great architects worked to create the Palazzo, each contributing his own style and character to the building. Carlo Maderno, then at work extending the nave of St Peter’s, was commissioned to enclose the Villa Sforza within a vast Renaissance block along the lines of Palazzo Farnese;[2] however, the design quickly evolved into a precedent-setting combination of an urban seat of princely power combined with a garden front that had the nature of a suburban villa with a semi-enclosed garden.

Maderno began in 1627, assisted by his nephew Francesco Borromini. When Maderno died in 1629, Borromini was passed over and the commission to oversee construction was awarded to Bernini, a young prodigy then better known as a sculptor. Borromini stayed on regardless and the two architects worked together, albeit briefly, on this project and at the Palazzo Spada. Works were completed by Bernini in 1633.

The palace was inhabited mainly by Pope Urban VIII’s two nephews Francesco and Taddeo with Taddeo and his family living in one wing and Francesco in the other. Francesco established there the Arazzia Barberini or Barberini Tapestry works in 1627 which remained open until 1679.[4] In February 1634, a revised version of Il Sant’Alessio, was performed at the Cardinal’s private theater in the Palazzo.[5] The Cardinal had written the libretto and Stefano Landi the music.[6] He founded a library at the Palazzo which included ancient Greek and Roman manuscripts. Also at the Palazzo Barberini, he initiated a small natural science museum and botanical garden and his collections attested to his interests in ancient sculpture, numismatics and inscriptions. In 1902, the large Biblioteca Barberina was purchased by Pope Leo XIII and became part of the Vatican holdings.

Celebrations for Christina of Sweden at Palazzo Barberini on 28 February 1656.
After the Wars of Castro and the death of Urban VIII, the palace was confiscated by Pamphili Pope Innocent X and was only returned to the Barberini in 1653.

Christina of Sweden visited Rome in December 1655. Nobles vied for her attention and treated her to a never-ending round of fireworks, jousts, mock duels, acrobatics, and operas. She was welcomed at the Palazzo Barberini on 28 February by a few hundred privileged spectators, as she watched an amazing carousel in the courtyard.

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