Tag Archives: Villa Borghese

In The Garden of The Beasts (Villa Borghese)

The title of this post is in reference to the statuary of animals both fantastic and natural found on the grounds of the Villa Borghese and its garden park in Rome.

Scipione Borghese was the Cardinal Nephew of Pope Paul V. The Cardinal Nephew (Cardinal Nepotente in Italian, from which the term nepotism is derived) was an official position and title in the church until 1692. In addition to the familial tie it implies, the position brought with it immense opportunities for wealth and power. Scipione Borghese took full advantage of these opportunities, at one point being one of the largest landowners in central Italy. He was a lover of art, and had a passion for gardening, creating famous gardens at both the Palazzo Borghese and the much larger private park of the Villa Borghese. The gardens consist of 148 acres of naturalistic parkland landscaped in the English fashion.

The Villa Borghese itself sits on the edge of the park, and houses the Galleria Borghese, an art museum focused around the collection amassed by Scipione Borghese. The art includes paintings by Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael, ancient Roman sculpture, and contemporary work by Bernini. The museum operates by timed, limited entry tickets, so unlike some of the larger, more popular museums (think Vatican Museum or the Louvre in Paris), the experience is never crushing as only a fixed number of people are in the museum at any time. You can always see the art without jostling or rushing. The park, on the other hand, is open to the public free of charge. It provides an oasis of greenery and openness amidst the chaos and compactness bordering on claustrophobia that is the city of Rome.

The plaza in front of the Villa is decorated by statuary, fountains, and an Egyptian obelisk or two. On the wall that demarcates the boundary between the plaza and the park, pedestals to support decorative urns are carved with dragons and eagles, elements from the Borghese family coat of arms. The eagles and dragons here are from the pedestals.

Eagle, Villa Borghese
Eagle, Villa Borghese
Dragon, Profile, Villa Borghese
Dragon, Profile, Villa Borghese
Dragon and Eagle, Villa Borghese
Dragon and Eagle, Villa Borghese
Dragon, Villa Borghese
Dragon, Villa Borghese
Snarling Dragon, Villa Borghese
Snarling Dragon, Villa Borghese

The lion devouring the stag is from an ancient Roman marble vessel on the side terrace of the Villa Borghese.

Lion and Stag, Villa Borghese
Lion and Stag, Villa Borghese

The bull’s head is from one of a pair of cornucopia/planters adorning the front steps to the Villa Borghese.

Bulls Head, Profile, Villa Borghese
Bulls Head, Profile, Villa Borghese
Marble Bulls Head, Villa Borghese
Marble Bulls Head, Villa Borghese

For the photo geeks in the house, these were all shot with my Tele-Rolleiflex, many using the 0.35 Rolleinar close-up filter. The 0.35 Rolleinar helps bring the minimum focus down from 8 feet to a much more manageable 4-ish.

Water Fountains

When I get finished processing all 79 rolls of film from this trip, I’ll have more of these to add, but until then, here’s a selection of public fountains. The Italians certainly love their water features and drinking fountains.

I’m certain I mentioned this before about the ancient fountain at the Colosseum, how you plug the bottom to get water to come out a hole in the top of the pipe so you don’t have to bend over to drink.

Ancient Fountain, Colosseum
Ancient Fountain, Colosseum

Well, here you can see that in action, at a similar fountain in the Castel Sant’Angelo:

Drinking Fountain, Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome
Drinking Fountain, Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome

And a full view of the fountain:

Acqua Potabile, Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome
Acqua Potabile, Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome

Here’s a little fountain in the piazza in front of San Lorenzo in Florence:

Lion Head Fountain, San Lorenzo, Florence
Lion Head Fountain, San Lorenzo, Florence

The Cellini fountain and memorial on the Ponte Vecchio. The interesting thing about it is that the fountain and memorial are 19th century, and their placement on the Ponte Vecchio is a little disingenuous.The bridge today is occupied by goldsmiths and jewelers, true, but in Cellini’s day, the Ponte Vecchio was home to butchers. Other than picking up his Saturday prosciutto, he didn’t spend time on the bridge. The modern day jewelers are just claiming inspiration from him.

Cellini Fountain, Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Cellini Fountain, Ponte Vecchio, Florence

A fountain at the Pantheon, under the obelisk in the plaza in front:

Fountain, Pantheon
Fountain, Pantheon

Another public drinking fountain, on the Ponte Vecchio, in Florence. This one is actually a drinking fountain, whereas the Cellini monument is purely decorative.

Drinking Fountain, Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Drinking Fountain, Ponte Vecchio, Florence

The fountain in the forecourt to the Palazzo Barberini, backlit by the afternoon sun:

Fountain, Palazzo Barberini
Fountain, Palazzo Barberini

A fountain in the Villa Borghese park, directly in front of the Palazzo Borghese:

Fountain, Villa Borghese, Rome
Fountain, Villa Borghese, Rome

A closeup detail of the Villa Borghese fountain:

Fountain, Villa Borghese Park, Rome
Fountain, Villa Borghese Park, Rome

A fountain outside the Vatican, with the water spigots emerging from the heads of Papal keys, crowned by a quartet of Papal tiaras:

Papal Tiara and Keys Fountain, Vatican
Papal Tiara and Keys Fountain, Vatican

A garden-variety public drinking fountain in Trastevere, the neighborhood where I lived in Rome:

Water Fountain, Trastevere, Rome
Water Fountain, Trastevere, Rome

A fountain crowned with a pinecone finial in the Piazza Venezia, especially appropriate decoration as it sits beneath a canopy of the famous pines of Rome.

Pinecone Fountain,Piazza Venezia, Rome
Pinecone Fountain,Piazza Venezia, Rome