Next on the agenda was the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, which in typical Roman fashion was not on the corner as depicted on the map but several buildings in. Never mind, we found it despite the map. Here is its serene courtyard.
Its attraction is that it is a family collection of paintings and sculpture, started in the sixteenth century by the Pamphilj family and its complicated set of descendants – the current inhabitants are the adopted English step-children of the late, beautifully named Princess Orietta Pogson Doria Pamphilj. Over the centuries, the palazzo was expanded and redecorated and sports plenty of baroque ornamentation. The sculptures, by the way, were assembled in the style of the times – you have a headless torso and a torso-less head? Glue them together and call it done! This photo by a TripAdvisor visitor gives you the idea.
We rented the audioguide narrated by the Prince, who adds charming details such as the way he and his sister were chastised for roller skating on the newly beeswaxed ancient terracotta tiles in the ballroom. The big attraction to us was the Caravaggios, many of which can be found in Rome (as you will see in a later post) and two of which are famously found in Malta. The Flight into Egypt from the Pamphilj may be my favorite. The musical angel’s black wings divide the picture in half – on one side the mother and child, on the other Joseph and the big-eyed cow (he does animals exceptionally well). The music Joseph is holding was played in this gallery at a concert not too long ago, according to the Prince.
The Penitent Magdalene is the other star. So many Caravaggios are dramatic, even violent, but these two are calm and beautiful. (Both images from the Web Gallery of Art)The model for Magdalene was one of Caravaggio’s favorites, a prostitute who was perhaps his mistress.
Now here’s a mystery: we had already seen Caravaggio’s St. John at the Capitoline yesterday, and then we saw TWO almost identical St. Johns here. Neither of them was mentioned in the audioguide, although the Flight into Egypt and the Penitent Magdalene, hung right next to one of the St. Johns, were made much of. The second St. John in an adjoining gallery was bigger than the other two we saw and included a dove in the top right corner that’s not present in the first two. So what’s going on? The nice man in the gift shop explained to us (with some difficulty) that the smaller St. Johns in the Capitoline and here were real, and the larger St. John in the Pamphilj is a copy. More research must be done! (Note: our tour guide for the Borghese pretty much said that both St. Johns here were likely copies but that no museum likes to admit it. So we did see the original at the Capitoline…) This is Caravaggio in his frisky, playful style.
By now, we were thoroughly saturated in art, and it was time to head back to the apartment. Dinner tonight was at a small hole in the wall famous for its spaghetti carbonara. We arrived right at opening time – 6:30 – which was clearly a tad bit early for the staff despite the open door. Soon enough the place began to fill up (mostly with other tourists) and we enjoyed our absolutely delicious pasta and house wine, then wound our way back through the streets to home and bed.