After the Italian State bought it in 1949, Palazzo Barberini has been open to the public and home to the National Gallery of Antique Art since 1953. The year 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the museum, a particularly important milestone as the long (and vast) restoration and renovation of the Palazzo has finally been completed. The ancient Palazzo, now a modern museum, has thirty-four exhibition rooms located on three floors (with the Gran Salone frescoed by Pietro Da Cortona in the middle) that display figurative art from Medieval through Neoclassical times. The Palazzo Barberini was commissioned by Pope Urban VIII after he took the papal throne in 1623. He sought an architecturally unprecedented home for the Barberini family, one that would translate its familial glory and power. Bernini, who stepped in after Maderno had died, dramatically combined the princely seat with a suburban villa, including outdoor exposures and a secret garden. Bernini also designed the large staircase of the north wing, whereas the sophisticated helicoidal staircase of the south wing was invented by Borromini.
To complement the beauty of the Palazzo’s architecture, the Barberinis commissioned some of the most renowned Baroque painters to adorn its grand halls. Among these artists was Pietro da Cortona, who frescoed the ceiling of the Gran Salone between 1632 and 1639 with the Triumph of Divine Providence, a fascinating masterpiece praising the wise government of the Barberini family.
Just a few years before, between 1629 and 1631, one of the champions of Baroque classicism, Andrea Sacchi, frescoed another room of the piano nobile [noble or second floor where the reception areas are typically located] with the Allegory of Divine Wisdom. The vastness of Palazzo Barberini, with its stately rooms, splendid décor, and outstanding painting collection, make it one of the most significant Baroque monuments of its time.
Written by Anna Lo Bianco