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Shit to Do Before I Die: The Galleria Borghese

October 7, 2009


“Shit to Do Before I Die” is a regular Travelverse blog where Jon Marcotte shares the travel experiences that make up his own personal “bucket list.”

The Villa at the Borghese Gallery

Villa Borghese Pinciana

My first “To do” takes us to the Galleria Borghese in Rome. The art gallery is inside the former Villa Borghese Pinciana, which is located in a lovely park on the outskirts of Rome.  The villa was primarily used by Cardinal Scipione Borghese to house his art collection.  Galleria Borghese’s collection started from Scipione Borghese’s own private collection, which is why it is fairly small and why the pieces are in such good condition.

The gallery includes a fair amount of artwork from Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.  It also includes Raphael’s “Entombment of Christ” and Tiziano Vecelli’s “Sacred and Profane Love”. However, the true highlights of the Borghese are the sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. You most likely are unfamiliar with Bernini- but you will definitely recognize his work. One of his most famous and recognizable works is the Piazza San Pietro in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. In the Borghese there are three Bernini sculptures; David, Pluto and Proserpina, and Apollo and Daphne. Apollo and Daphne being my favorite.


Visiting Apollo & Daphne in person

Pluto and Proserpina (Rape of Proserpina), depicts Pluto (Hades) as he is seizing his prize, Proserpina (Persephone), to take her to the underworld. You see Pluto’s muscular hands gripping Proserpina’s thigh as she struggles to escape and the indentations his fingers make on her skin as he holds on to her tightly. On Proserpina’s face, you see a tear flowing from her eye as she succumbs to her fate.

The Rape of Proserpina

The Rape of Proserpina


Apollo and Daphne

The sculpture of Apollo and Daphne portrays Apollo, overcome with love, desperately pursuing Daphne as she flees from his advances. In order to avoid his capture, Daphne cries out to her father, Pensus, to save her. Just as Apollo wraps his arms around her, Pensus turns his daughter into a Laurel Tree. Bernini captures Daphne during this metamorphosis. Her skin is turning into bark, her outstretched hands are sprouting branches and her windblown hair is turning into leaves. The amount of detail in this sculpture truly amazing, it is hard to believe it is made out of marble.

Quite frankly, pictures and words cannot begin to describe his work. Bernini somehow creates life and movement out of marble, which is why I encourage people to visit this gallery- even if it is just to see the three Bernini sculptures. I am confident you will walk away impressed with everything you see at the Galleria Borghese.

It is required to make reservations ahead of time and you have a time limit of two hours to view the gallery. Make sure you plan accordingly and see these three statues first, you do not want to miss them. For more information visit:

One Comment leave one →
  1. Nicole permalink
    October 11, 2009 2:34 AM

    I love this museum. I agree that if anyone who is interested in art or history should plan on going to the Borghese when in Rome. Not only is the park it is located in shaped like a heart, it is a nice place to have a picnic after strolling the museum. You can even rent bikes there. Even still, the best part of the park and the museum is the sculptures. Having worked with sculpting stone myself, I still can’t fathom how they made some of the sculptures.

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