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Borghese Gallery Masterpieces Tour

  • Group Size:
    Group Size: Max 8
  • Language:
    Language: English
  • Duration:
    Duration: 2.5 hrs
  • Start:
    Start: 9:00 AM
  • Price:
    Price: From 99 €
  • Cancelation:
    Including: Skip the line tickets

Tour Overview

Masterpieces will be unveiled – and the stories behind them uncovered – as a professional art historian leads the way through one of the world’s most acclaimed art collections. We keep the groups small (8 people or fewer!) so that you can get up close and personal with some of Rome’s greatest art.


Tour Highlights

  • Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne
  • Bernini’s Rape of Proserpina
  • Bernini’s David
  • Canova’s Pauline Bonaparte
  • Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath
  • Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of Fruits
  • Caravaggio’s young Sick Bacchus
  • Raphael’s The Deposition
  • Titian’s The Profane and Sacred Love

What's included

  • Expert English-speaking guide
  • A small group of 8 or fewer
  • All tickets and reservations

What you’ll See Along the Way

Bernini's Apollo and Daphne

Many of Bernini’s early works include sculptures with mythological themes, like this impressive piece from 1625. The sculpture was chiseled in traditional Baroque style – bombastic, dynamic and full of movement and flow. Bernini masterfully captured the exact moment in which Daphne began her transformation into a laurel tree; we can see roots stretching from the tips of her toes while branches and leaves sprout from her fingertips. The dramatic metamorphosis was the only way for the beautiful nymph to escape the relentless courtship of the god Apollo, who is pictured just catching up to her after a long chase.

Bernini’s David

The David from 1624 is one of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s earliest works, yet also one of his most esteemed. His renowned sculpture of the biblical hero differs significantly from earlier renderings. Compared to Donatello and Michelangelo’s portrayal of the same figure, Bernini’s interpretation is much more dynamic and expressive. It was the first time that David had been depicted at the very moment of slaying Goliath; placing great emphasis on action, which is so typical of art works from the Baroque era. The contortion of the body and the perfectly rendered tension of the muscles are testimonies to Bernini's incredible virtuosity.

Bernini’s David

The David from 1624 is one of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s earliest works, yet also one of his most esteemed. His renowned sculpture of the biblical hero differs significantly from earlier renderings. Compared to Donatello and Michelangelo’s portrayal of the same figure, Bernini’s interpretation is much more dynamic and expressive. It was the first time that David had been depicted at the very moment of slaying Goliath; placing great emphasis on action, which is so typical of art works from the Baroque era. The contortion of the body and the perfectly rendered tension of the muscles are testimonies to Bernini's incredible virtuosity.

Canova’s Pauline Bonaparte

This 1808 marble portrait of Pauline Bonaparte, Emperor Napoleon’s favorite sister, is considered to perfectly embody the essence of neoclassical style. The young woman was married to Roman prince Camillo Borghese, who commissioned the sculptor Antonio Canova to celebrate the beauty of his wife. Pauline was notorious for her promiscuous lifestyle, so it came as no surprise to Canova when she demanded him to portray her as a semi-nude Venus, the goddess of beauty and love. The flashy rendering of the princess’ lush figure was perceived as a shocking scandal by both her husband and the people of Rome.

Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of Fruits

Caravaggio’s Boy with a Basket of Fruits

Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath

Caravaggio boldly revolutionized the art of painting and his 1607 interpretation of David and Goliath is a great example of how he strayed from contemporary conventions. Most artists before him had portrayed David as triumphant, but in Caravaggio's interpretation we see a pensive young man gazing down at Goliath's head with an expression that hints at feelings of pity and sorrow. The two figures are rumored to represent an eerie double portrait of the artist himself; the younger Caravaggio holds the head of his elder self, symbolizing how the young and wreckless artist would inevitably ruin his life later on.

Caravaggio’s Young Sick Bacchus

In his early self-portraits, Caravaggio often portrayed himself as Bacchus, the God of Wine – an unsubtle nod to his own unquenchable love of the alcoholic grape juice. This 1594 painting is the most celebrated of his Bacchus interpretations, perfectly uniting sensuous idealism with new naturalism. Notice the exquisitely textured peaches in the foreground – situated so near to the edge of the table that they seem liable to roll off; doesn’t it make you want reach into the frame to grab them? This stylistic trick was often used by Caravaggio to enhance the onlooker’s sense of being enclosed in an embrace of the work.

Raphael’s The Deposition

In 1507, a Perugian noblewoman commissioned the up-and-coming artist Raphael to paint a dramatic depiction of Christ’s burial, in memory of her murdered son. The young artisan initially struggled with the prestigious task and sketched numerous drafts before actually commencing the hefty six foot by five foot painting. Luckily, all of his preparatory efforts paid off; the end result was a spectacular color-saturated and flawlessly executed rendering of the ever-touching scene. It was the first time anyone had represented the mourning of Christ in such a dynamic and expressive way, earning the painting an iconic status in art history.

Titian’s The Profane and Sacred Love

Titian’s symbolism-brimming 1514 oil painting invites an endless wealth of interpretations and has kept art historians quizzing for centuries. The most popular analysis, however, is that the painting represents an allegory of the two types of love. The semi-nude woman depicted on the right is said to represent earthly and passionate love, while the sumptuously dressed woman on the opposite side is considered to be an embodiment of celestial love. Both women are resting on a water-filled white marble sarcophagus, in which a Cupid can be seen dipping his arm, perhaps as a symbol of mediation of love between the main figures.

Tour Summary Get in the Know

Enjoy Jaw-Dropping Art in the Perfect Setting

Nestling amid the greenery of Villa Borghese, the Borghese Gallery boasts one of the finest private art collections in the world. In the 17th century, Cardinal Scipione Borghese assembled the “galleria” in his opulent garden villa, which provides the perfect setting for the Baroque and Renaissance blockbusters it houses. For the already devoted culture vulture, this is an unmissable jewel, but the villa contains enough stunning masterpieces to turn even the most philistine visitor into an art aficionado.

Cardinal Borghese himself was an avid art lover who would go to any length necessary to extend his collection of paintings and sculptures. You’ll be amazed by your guide’s stories of how Borghese stopped at nothing to get his hands on the inestimable masterpieces that to this day fill his namesake gallery to the brim. While we don’t endorse his unjust (and often illegal!) methods, one has to admire the relentless determination – and impeccable taste – it took to create this awe-inspiring treasure trove.

Admire works by Great Masters Up-Close

Though the Borghese Gallery may not be vast as many other museums in Rome, its sheer density of masterworks is enough to overwhelm even the most seasoned art connoisseur. And with the admission ticket being valid for only two hours, you truly need an expert to streamline the visit and ensure that you do not miss out on any of the real gems. Our engaging guides will lead you straight to the most essential pieces and unveil the incredible stories behind them (as well as let you in on the gossip on the larger-than-life characters who created them!).

Traveling in small groups of 8 guests or fewer, you won’t have to use your elbows to get up close and personal with the coveted classics on display. Marvel at sculptures by Bernini – so lifelike and animated that you’ll wonder how he could transform single blocks of marble into such incredible works of art. Take a close look at the face of David and study his tension and determination. Then check out the finger impressions in Proserpina’s legs as Pluto takes her to the underworld. Or, for an all-time “How did he do that?!” moment, study the statue of Apollo and Daphne to see her transforming into a laurel tree.

Go Beyond the Artworks & into the Minds of the Artists

In room VIII, we’ll give you the time to savor the renowned brush strokes (and characteristic “chiaroscuro” technique) of the Cardinal’s favorite Baroque bad-boy – Caravaggio. Every single one of the hyper-realistic pictures is gawk-worthy, but we suggest you pay some special attention to David with the Head of Goliath. As Caravaggio was hoping to receive pardon for a murder he had committed, he wittily painted his own self-portrait on the decapitated head of Goliath and presented the painting to the Pope. Did the ingenious master plan work? We’ll tell you exactly how the story unraveled!

Unlike most other museums in the Eternal City, the Borghese Gallery limits the number of people admitted during each two-hour period, which means you’ll never have to worry about fighting crowds. So, seize the opportunity to admire the many masterpieces from every angle (and only inches away!) without being pushed or shoved, and take a moment to truly absorb the abundance of beauty surrounding you – because this is the way world-class art was meant to be experienced!

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REVIEWS

Borghese Gallery Masterpieces Tour Reviews

What our Customers say...

Very Happy!

Martina took us through the Borghese Galleries and was wonderful! She is highly knowledgeable, charming and a fantastic guide. Such an enjoyable experience!”

Two Great Tours!

Toni also was my tour guide for my group tour of the Borghese the day before the Vatican tour, and I liked her so much I asked David if she could be our guide for the Vatican tour. Going to the Borghese with an art historian made all the difference and I found the tour quite affordable. Just lovely, all around.”

Fabulous!

Borghese Gallery tour - the most fabulous tour of art imaginable by Erica, the art is incredible and the stories she told to bring it to life were amazing!”

Best tour in Rome!

We did the Colosseum tour with Guliano, the Vactican tour with Daniela, and the Villa Borghese tour with Marcello. We were so glad to have chosen What a Life Tours! These were by far the best tours I have ever done! The knowledge, passion, and sincere interest of the tour guides made all the difference in the world! What a Life Tours will be the only company I use or recommend to anyone else from now on!”

Fantastic!

We definitely got it right going with What a Life. Martina toured us through the Borghese Galleria and she was amazing. Charming, intelligent and made the tour so interesting and engaging. It was spectacular and we wouldn't have had anywhere near as great an experience or learned much without her!! Wonderful.”

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