Galleria Colonna: a jewel revealed only on a Saturday morning

Last week I finally made it to Rome’s Galleria Colonna to view this fantastic art collection which is only open to the public on Saturday mornings.  Wandering around the ornate, baroque-style rooms of the gallery and admiring the Colonna family’s private art treasures is a glorious way to start the weekend.

The gallery, commissioned by Cardinal Girolamo I Colonna and his nephew in the 1600s, was originally planned to commemorate the Christian victory over the Turks at the naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571, in which their relative Marcantonio II played a decisive role . Many of the ceiling frescos are dedicated to his triumph.

The Colonna family built up one of the largest private art collections in Rome. In the initial rooms, the picture that stood out the most for me was Venus, Cupid and Satyr, painted by Agnolo Bronzino in the 16th century.

venusandcupidAlso facing each other on opposite walls were two striking mid- 16th century paintings by Michele di Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio: the Allegory of the Night, and the Allegory of Aurora. I liked the theatrical masks and symbols in the background.


auroraAfter seeing these initial paintings, I turned to face the Great Hall: a magnificent room decorated with fancy chandeliers, stunning frescoes on the ceiling, and mirrors on the walls behind statues of satyrs and nymphs.

greathallbigComing down the short flight of steps into the hall, I was surprised to see a cannonball lodged in them. This was apparently shot from the Janiculum hill in 1849 by the French army, who had come to fight for Pope Pius IX against Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Republican forces.

cannonballStrolling around the main room, I had a closer look at the chandeliers and statues, as well as admiring the paintings covering the walls from top to toe.


satyrOne of the most famous paintings in the collection can be seen in a subsequent room, The Bean Eater by Annibale Carracci, a down-to-earth depiction of everyday life, dating to around 1580-90:

beaneaterWhile walking around the gallery it was also interesting to look outside and admire the wonderful views. I overheard a French guide saying that a lot of effort was put into building gardens to create views that complemented the internal rooms of the palace, and I certainly got that impression.

colonnagardenThe gallery rooms were also beautifully decorated with paintings of cherubs and roses, tapestries and mirrors along with even more ornate chandeliers! All in all the Galleria Colonna is a sparkling jewel well worth getting up for on a Saturday morning.



5 thoughts on “Galleria Colonna: a jewel revealed only on a Saturday morning

  1. Hi, May I create a Pinterest “pin” of your photo & link it back to this site? I really like the photo looking past two balustrades, to the three marble alcoves w/statues, and up the brick and colonnaded exterior of the Galleria Colonna.

  2. These are gorgeous! You realise that both Night and Aurora are painted versions of his friend Michelangelo’s ladies from the Cappella Medici in Florence? Night is especially interesting, as the full-colour painting makes even more apparent the disease that is visible in her statue: Night is aligned symbolically with Death, so the poor girl has a visibly ‘tethered’ tumour in her left breast. The sculpted version has been written about by oncologists.

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