|Palazzo Barberini (source)|
|Beatrice Cenci - Guido Reni|
It presently hangs in the Italian National Art Collection, housed in the monolithic Palazzo Barberini, a palazzo bedecked with bees, the symbol of the Barberini family. One salon along, there is a vivid painting by Caravaggio of 'Judith Beheading Holofernes', capturing the moment when life leaves the body of the ghastly giant, beheaded by the brave Judith to save her people from the enemy. It was painted in 1599, and some say it’s rather awful accuracy was inspired by Caravaggio’s witnessing of the beheading of Beatrice.
|'Judith Beheading Holofernes' - Caravaggio|
|'La Fornarina' - Raphael|
Rafael’s gorgeous portrait of his mistress, known as
The Palazzo Barberini itself began as a palazzetto of the Sforza family in the sixteenth century, but was built into a huge mansion in the seventeenth, on the commission of Pope Urban VIII, who was Maffeo Barberini. The architect Carlo Maderno worked on the project, and those two great architectural rivals, Borromini and Bernini took over from him. There’s a great squared staircase at one end of the building that’s the work of Bernini; and a delicate spiralling one at the other end that’s the work of Borromini.
In its current role as the home of the Italian National Art Collection, Palazzo Barberini houses, as you can imagine, many treasures from across the centuries. I have to mention that they have Holbein’s amazing portrait of Henry VIII, for example, some exquisite early Lippi pieces, Poussin landscapes, Bernini paintings, some El Grecos, a lovely selection of those fine Dutch portraits, and - in the Salon da Cortona, a quite extraordinary ceiling.
|The Cortona Ceiling (source)|
|A Barnerini Bee.|