by Genna Rivieccio
For those who go to Rome, it appears as though the Doria Pamphilj (an awkward word, yes, pronounced Pomp-feel-ee) Gallery is an unearthed gem that remains unexplored due to the other, more famous monuments to visit (e.g. the Vatican and the Pantheon) that distract from this must-see art collection situated in the Doria Pamphilj Palace.
The small, but carefully curated space features a collection originally built up by Pope Innocent X, who then bequeathed the palace to Camillo Francesco Maria Pamphili (he spelled it with an “i” at the end for a minute), a cardinal who would go on to become a nobleman of the Pamphilj family. Incidentally, after the death of Pope Innocent X’s (originally named Giovanni Battista) brother, Pamphilio Pamphili, he became “a lot closer” with Camillo’s mother, Olimpia Maidalchini, who would become one of the only powerful women in Rome in the seventeenth century after becoming adviser to Pope Innocent X–a fair trade for helping him ascend to the role.
Narrated by the pompous sounding (and probably pompous IRL) Jonathan Doria Pamphilij, an adopted ancestor of the illustrious family known for causing scandals of his own, the experience of seeing each piece is heightened by his selected back stories.
The most famous painting housed on the premises is, hands down, Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X, in which he is seated regally (a not surprising adjective considering popes were once more powerful than kings at this point in time) wearing a red hat and cape that accents his noble air. But then again, he also looks decidedly sinister–as any pope who banged his sister-in-law would.
Once you pass the Velázquez room, you make your way down the Hall of Mirrors, an opulent space featuring an array of mirrors (naturally) and statues. It makes one wonder if perhaps the people of the past were less clumsy, able to control their limbs for long periods of time without knocking something over. Because you best believe if an American of today lived in this palace, he would have no trouble getting too close to one of the sculptures and fucking it up.
When you finally make your way through this hallway, you’ll continue down to see the varied collection from the likes of Rubens, Titian and Caravaggio. Even the “lesser known” works, like those from Pasquale Chiesa and Maestro Jacomo, show that taste is something the Doria Pamphilij family never bought. Each of the ancestors that took possession of the palace seemed only to add something beautiful to it, resulting in one of the most impressive personal collections in the world. So after your mandatory Vatican trip, harness your strength with a plate of pasta and an espresso and make the visit to the Doria Pamphilij Gallery.