I have been a busy, busy bee this week, hence the late post! But my best friend came to visit me and we have been VERY busy adventuring all over Rome and discovering many beauties to share with you here. Today, I want to talk about the Galleria Borghese & the Damien Hirst ‘Archaeology Now’ exhibition that is being housed here.
Without further ado, here we go!
The Villa Borghese & Borghese Gardens
Coming from Siena, the Borghese family quickly ascended the Roman ranks, with their ascension culminating in the election of Pope Paul V. The pope’s nephew was a prominent man of his own right, moving up the church ranks to become Cardinal Scipione Borghese. However, the Pope had one condition: Build Rome a grand and beautiful place. ‘No problem,’ said the Cardinal.
The construction of the Villa Borghese was entrusted to Flaminio Ponzo, and later, to Girolamo Rainaldi and was completed in 1633. The construction of the Villa began an era of public renovation works and Cardinal Scipione Borghese amassed a huge amount of fine art and precious artworks, which make up some of the most valuable parts of the collection on display today. On display are paintings by Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, Corregio and sculptures by Bernini.
The Borghese Gardens have been described as “the green lung” of Rome and are a popular place for all kinds of people to enjoy a sunny afternoon. Stretching out before the Villa Borghese, these gardens were once a vineyard that was radically transformed to become a beautiful, masterfully shaped park. In the 19th century, the park was expanded to include further lands and redesigned to the naturalistic English style. In the early 20th century, the Italian state took over the park and opened it fully to public use.
Damien Hirst & ‘Archaeology Now’
A brief word on Damien Hirst:
Born in 1965 and coming to prominence in the late 1980’s, Damien Hirst is one of the most controversial & fascinating artists to emerge from the UK art scene. Even from his early exhibitions in Goldsmith, where he studied until 1989, his work was striking and interrogated many complex and difficult themes, such as death, fragility and, more recently, in his exhibition, ‘Cherry Blossoms’, he toys with the subjects of traditional landscape paintings. One of his most well-known works from this early career period was ‘Natural History’, where decomposing animals were preserved in formaldehyde solution in glass and steel tanks.
With much support from Prada, the Borghese Gallery & Damien Hirst presents ‘Archaeology Now’, which features much of his work from ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’. In this exhibition, Hirst goes beyond expectations, using a wealth of different materials and inspirations, both mythical and imaginary, to create an exhibition which is truly thought provoking.
I have a couple of favourites from this exhibition, but I particularly love ‘The Severed Head of Medusa’. To be found amongst a smattering of famous Caravaggio paintings are three severed heads of Medusa, all made with different materials, and so, to different affect.
As an avid lover of Medusean imagery and myth, these were breathtaking.
Close on their heels to be my favourite is the much renowned ‘Hydra and Kali’. You can see why. It is quite a shock to the system to wander out from a highly adorned room into a pristine garden to turn and find this colossal statue set. What I particularly enjoyed about this work was how you could play with perspective to play with the scale of each part. From certain angles, depending on whose side you are quite literally standing behind, these statues take up different forms.
Though, it must be duly noted, and was observed by my dear Art Historian companion, that the rock/crystal formations actually really take away from the piece. Once my attention was brought to them, I really couldn’t see them as anything but unsightly and somewhat lacking, in comparison to how much attention to detail was given to the statue set itself.
Ultimately, the whole collection was really worth viewing. Knowing it is only available until November 2021 had really put me on edge to ensure I didn’t miss the opportunity to see this whole exhibition in the Borghese.
Enjoy some of the pictures I took along my Borghese wanders. Some are Hirst, some are old classics 😉 I am NO photographer so be warned, but I hope I have captured even 1/656th of their mesmerising quality.
Ciara O’Siorain (chi desidera diventare la bella donna figa come gli italiani)