France in Rome: Paolina Borghese Bonaparte

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In the eternal city, many corners echo with illustrious surnames – Barberini, Farnese, Borghese. But if you live in Rome, the Borghese surname is synonymous with beauty and power.

The Borghese family moved from Siena to Rome. The family and 19th-century French power are linked thanks to one of the most famous weddings in history.

In 1803, the bourgeois Prince Camillo Borghese married Paolina Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister.

Paolina was a woman of renowned beauty, who married Camillo after being widowed. She was rebellious and a lover of luxury. 

To pay homage to his wife, Camillo commissioned this masterpiece from the greatest sculptor of the time, Antonio Canova.

To appreciate the history of this famous family, you must visit the Borghese Gallery in Rome. This attraction is an essential place of charm and a treasure trove of masterpieces.

The Borghese Gallery is in the heart of Villa Borghese, the green lung of the eternal city. It’s easily accessible and has recently experienced a strong increase in visitors. In 2018, over 600 000 people visited.

We could say that the sculpture of Paulina as Canova’s Winning Venus is an attraction within attraction.

To improve the quality of the visit and the guest experience, they have restructured the entire location. The internal organization, signage and logistics have all been improved, all without having to close to visitors.

Reservations to access the collection are mandatory, but there’s a possibility of buying last-minute tickets. A maximum of 360 people can enter during each two-hour time slot.

Once you locate the Borghese Gallery’s website, the procedure for buying tickets is simple. The buy now button is highlighted on the home page.

On arrival, you must have your ticket checked and leave all bulky items in the cloakroom. The cloakroom and toilets are free. It’s also possible to rent audio guides. Make sure you visit the bookshop and cafeteria, which has a menu focused on organic cuisine.

Your visit will begin with Pauline welcoming you in Room I on the ground floor of the collection.

As I said at the beginning, I like to call this an attraction within an attraction. It is one often sought after by French tourists. Using Google Trends, we see that in the last year, the term Paulina Borghese is associated with the query “Antonio Canova”. It’s also related to topics as Statue, Cupid and Love and Marat. 

Looking at Trip Advisor, we can see the popularity of this attraction. Most tourists call it a must-see in Rome. They recommend booking from the official website and highlight the entrance fee. Although the entrance fee is not exactly cheap, it seems most visitors see this as a good cultural investment. 

Beyond the masterpiece of Canova, the collection has countless masterpieces from Bernini, Caravaggio and Tiziano.

But why is this sculpture of a woman so fascinating? Undoubtedly for the subject itself but also for the techniques Canova used to create it. 

Antonio Canova is recognized as one of the great neoclassical artists. He is the artist of eternal beauty that he inserts in all his works.

The public wonders, did Pauline pose naked before the sculptor’s eyes or is she an idealization? At the time, even a partial nude was considered a true scandal. And Pauline was the Prince Borghese’s wife. 

When asked whether she posed for Canova, they say Pauline said “I was naked but also in a very heated room”. With this comment, it is no wonder that gossip continues to this day.

This sculpture of Pauline is the personification of Imperial Venus. The goddess is thoughtful with his golden apple trophy gift of Paris. Commissioned in 1804, the sculpture arrived in the Casino Pinciano in Rome in 1838. From 1889, they placed it in this room in accordance with the themes narrated in the vault Venus and Aeneas by Domenico de Angelis.

Canova offers the public the triumph of beauty and elegance. It’s a perfect portrait, a marble so smooth that the drapery of the cloth seems like soft flesh. The artist placed the sculpture on a wooden mechanism capable of rotating it 360 degrees. At one time the visitor could admire the sculpture from every angle without having to turn around.

It would be interesting to have statistics on the nationality of tourists who visit the Gallery. In my experience, it is mixed but certain masterpieces like Pauline are very popular with the patriotic French tourist.

Working as an attraction expert in doitwell I am always intrigued by countless aspects and details. Living in Rome, I have a weakness for the Borghese Gallery. I always suggest it to those who want a unique experience. You could spend a whole day in the area between culture and nature. 

Villa Borghese is among my favorite places. It’s also full of services that can help guests from renting bicycles to refreshments points. There are beautiful panoramas from which to enjoy a romantic sunset. Narrow streets lead you to the Spanish Steps, avoiding the crowds. And once inside the villa, you can rent small boats and explore the fantastic lake. 

This is definitely a place to experience at different times of the day.

At doitwell we know what makes a great attraction and a fantastic guest experience. This is definitely an attraction you should not miss. 

Selenia Morgillo

Selenia Morgillo

Selenia Morgillo is an Attractions Expert at doitwell. Her specialty centers around providing doitwell’s Clients with the best experience. She focuses on understanding Attractions and how guests interact with them. Selenia is also an Art Historian, Tour Director, and Tour Guide in Europe. With her extensive studies in both the Arts and Tourism Management, Selenia’s unique background (especially behind the camera ) is what gives her such a curious eye for essential details and a passionate and soulful edge. On top of the formal arts, she has a passion for archeology, architecture, traveling, food, and photography. Born in a small town near Naples, Selenia currently lives and works in the “Eternal City” of Rome.

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