Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

I hadn't been to any of the grand private villas or pallazzo's during my trip to Rome, but on learning that the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj contained one of the art world's most revered portraits, I just had to squeeze in a visit on my last day there. The palazzo is a series of beautiful, lavishly decorated rooms, that includes a private family chapel, and music room, housing an important collection of furniture, paintings and sculpture which is still owned by the regal Doria Pamphilj family.

The collection has been amassed since the 16th century, and in a similar way to many of the churches in Rome is an extravagant display of wealth and power. The opulent, ornate decoration is everywhere and competes with the actual paintings for attention.

The paintings are hung densely - salon style, fighting for your attention, and there are just so many of them that you actually begin to question the nature of collecting. Still, it is better that they are actually out on display to be admired, rather than left to languish unappreciated in storage. Gems in the Doria Pamphilj collection include this lovely Caravaggio which it was a pleasure to finally see in the flesh.

Rest On The Flight Into Egypt - Caravaggio

Another Caravaggio painting - St John the Baptist, and the various preparatory studies of it in the collection were another highlight.

St John the Baptist

This painting - The Annunciation - by Filippo Lippi was so beautiful ,and one of my favourites of the whole visit. The figure of the Angel Gabriel in particular is absolutely stunningly rendered. Unfortunately the gallery in which it is hung is so gloomily lit it makes it hard to fully appreciate its colours and brilliance.

The undoubted masterpiece in the Doria Pamphilj gallery is the portrait of Pope Innocent X by Diego Velazquez, regarded by many artists and critics as one of the finest portraits ever painted. There are two marble sculpture portraits by Bernini of the Pope, and a very well executed painted portrait study by Velazquez (all above). The main portrait though is important enough to be hung in it's own vestibule behind a velvet rope (below). The paint is indeed extremely well handled by Velazquez and the portrait does not seek to flatter Pope Innocent who on seeing it was said to have remarked "Troppo Vero!" (all too true!).

There is a real sense of power which emanates from the portrait, and also a sense of menace. You can bet he didn't suffer fools! It was interesting to make comparisons having seen the version by Francis Bacon (below), a couple of days earlier held in the Vatican Museum collection. One can certainly see why Bacon was sufficiently obsessed with the very powerful Velazquez original to paint so many of his own versions.

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
Via Del Corso