It is the only example of an eighteenth-century Roman picture gallery which to this day has survived completely intact. The Corsini Gallery is housed in the building of the same name at the Lungara just outside Porta Settimiana. It is an impressive building with a basic design carried out by Ferdinando Fuga between 1732 and 1736 upon the wishes of Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini.
The Florentine cardinal was the nephew of Pope Clement XII, and he acquired the old Riario building situated on the slopes of the Janiculum, which in the seventeenth century was the home of Queen Christina of Sweden and the seat of the Arcadian Academy which she founded, in order to transform it into a splendid noble family residence as well as the monumental centre of the cardinal’s collection.
In fact, ancient pieces and modern sculptures of classicistic taste which were scattered around the building welcomed visitors, starting from the vast entrance hall introduced by the triple outward fornix guiding them along the monumental flight of steps with two ramps reaching the apartment on the piano nobile,where a very remarkable picture gallery with works that ranged from the Middle Ages to the modern age was located.
The cardinal was assisted in the collection work by the learned Giovanni Gaetano Bottari,who was a fervent admirer of Maratta and a keen supporter of the classicistic taste, the cardinal himself had a preference above all for seventeenth-century paintings represented by artists of the calibre of Rubens, Van Dyck, Murillo, Caravaggio, Gentileschi,Guercino, Reni, Rosa, Preti and Giordano without disregarding the coeval approaches to scenes of genre, landscape and still life, thereby shaping the Gallery in fact as the centre designated to trace the development of paintings from the XVII and XVIII centuries in Rome and Naples; there is also a sizeable core of foreign works (especially Dutch) that is evidence of the close contact maintained by Cardinal Corsini with the transalpine artists working in the papal city.
The collection was donated to the young Italian State in 1883, along with its architectonic building and part of the original furnishings. The collection was the origin for the creation of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica for which it formed the first nucleus; recently it was the object of a new arrangement that, though having a preference for unification of the paintings by school and theme, intended to reproduce the traditional expository criteria marked by the decorative placement of the items.
A small but valuable collection of small bronzes mostly dated between the end of XVII century and the early decades of XVIII century is displayed on the consolles of various rooms starting from the great entrance hall to the cardinal’s apartment called sala del trono and once used as a hall for feasts; a rich grotesque ceiling with storie di Mosè datable to the end of the sixteenth century and ascribable to the mannerist taste of Federico Zuccari and the Sistine painters on the museum’s itinerary, is found in the room which was Queen Christina’s bedroom and was substantially untouched by Fuga’s restoration work.
Some of the masterpieces in the gallery include paintings by Beato Angelico and Andrea del Sarto, Rubens, Caravaggio (S. Giovanni Battista), Van Dyck and some of the most famous items on display are the Coppa Corsini, a silver kantharos going back to the I century BC and the Trono Corsini, which was inspired by Etruscan funeral thrones, is a Roman artefact from the late Republican age, it was found in 1733 during excavations for the construction of the family chapel in St. John Lateran.
Address Via della Lungara, 10
Visiting Hours Tuesday – Saturday from 9.00 am to 7.30 pm; Sunday and holidays from 9.00 am to 1.30 pm; Closed Monday, Dec. 25, Jan. 1
Telephone 06 68802323; Fax 06 68133192; Presale 06 32810
Price € 4,00; concessions € 2,00; free admittance for those aged under 18 and over 65 (EU)