Villa Farnesina

Well, darn it!  I made a big mistake.  I left my camera cord in Florence so I can’t transfer my photos from my camera to my computer for another couple of weeks.  So, I am going to have some big holes in my posts until I get back home to Florence.  Oh well, what can you do?

Until then, here are some shots I snapped with my phone camera at the gorgeous Villa Farnesina today.  The place is so amazing, even the phone shots are pretty great!  Also, the weather….70 degrees and sunny skies.

Allora, on to the Villa, the quintessential Renaissance palazzo.

The Villa’s exterior:

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Before we head inside, let’s have a history lesson.

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Villa Farnesina: a Renaissance suburban villa in the Via della Lungara, in the district of Trastevere in Rome.

The villa was built for Agostina 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 perhaps 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, Sebastian 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.

This same “Galatea” loggia has a horoscope vault that displays the positions of the planets around the zodiac on the patron’s birth date, 29 November 1466. The two main ceiling panels of the vault give his precise time of birth, 9:30 pm on that date.

On the piano nobile, Peruzzi painted the main salone with troupe l’oeil 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, Sodoma painted scenes from the life of Alexander the Great, the marriage of Alexander and Roxana, and Alexander receiving the family of Darius.

The villa became the property of the Farnese family in 1577 (hence the name of Farnesina). The Villa’s second owner, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, became Pope Paul III in 1534, and the Farnese family’s wealth and influence continued to soar. Also in the 16th century, Michelangelo proposed linking the Palazzo Farnese on the other side of the Tiber River, where he was working, to the Villa Farnesina with a private bridge. This was initiated, remnants of a few arches are in fact still visible in the back of Palazzo Farnese towards via Giulia on the other side of the Tiber, but was never completed.

Today, the Villa is owned by the Italian State; it accommodates the Accademia dei Lincei,  a long-standing and renowned Roman academy of sciences. Until 2007 it also housed the Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe (Department of Drawings and Prints) of the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, Roma.

The Villa’s interior (better photos are coming, in about 2 weeks; see above):

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