This aristocratic residence was built in 18th-century Rome to house the magnificent collection of a cardinal who was also an antiquarian and patron of the arts. Untouched since then, it is now open to the public.
Bas-relief of Antinous, 130-138, marble, 105 x 77 cm/41.3 x 30.3 in.
© Fondazione Torlonia
Here we have a genuine time capsule behind a wall enclosing an eight-hectare park, which cuts it off from the hustle and bustle of Rome’s traffic. Those troubled by modern times need only step through the gateway giving onto Via Salaria to breathe the unspoiled atmosphere of the age of the Grand Tour. Virtually nothing has changed at Villa Albani Torlonia since the 18th century when tourists to the Eternal City were aristocrats and collectors guided by antiquarian mentors. Cardinal Alessandro Albani (1692-1779), who had it built between 1747 and 1767 by architect Carlo Marchionni, was all of these things. A nephew of Pope Clement XI (1700-1721), he became a prince of the Church at just 28, in 1720. At that time, he skillfully represented British interests unofficially at the papal court, and later those of the Habsburgs. But while the young man excelled in the art of diplomacy, it was art itself that truly fascinated him, especially antiquities. Nor was his knowledge of the subject confined to books: as an adolescent, he assisted his father in restoring the Pantheon and later participated in…
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