The Galleria del Cembalo occupies one portion of what in 1700 was the so-called Galleria Terrena of the Borghese Palace, opening on the secret garden with the wonderful fountains by Rainaldi (and others), which with the time became a perfect space for the exhibition of the paintings and sculptures collection of the Borghese. Nowadays it represents an ideal location for art exhibitions, meetings or private events.
Walking across the courtyard, the gallery is reached passing through the garden, with its geometrical green areas, small boxwoods in the corners, orange trees and surrounded by the fountains, adding the sound of the water to the stillness of the garden.
A multicoloured mosaic stands all around the stairs leading to the gallery, which is at a higher level compared to the garden. The Galleria del Cembalo occupies five intercommunicating large rooms, three facing the secret garden, with very high ceilings decorated with frescoes and gilded stucco.
The first welcome to the visitor is given by the figure of Aurora, in the big canvas on the ceiling by Francesco Caccianiga (1773), represented in the act of pouring flowers in the sky while the sun is raising. The canvas is contoured by a wooden gilded frame, showing at the two ends the emblem of the family, eagle and drake, as to underline that in that era the Borghese family was driven toward a sort of renaissance under the guide of the prince Marcantonio IV.
Leaving Aurora the path takes the guest to the large so called Audience Hall, where the prince used to receive the travellers of the Grand Tour. The ceiling is decorated with an amazing fresco representing ‘The Triumph of the Borghese’, by Ermenegildo Costantini (1767-1774), again with the coat of arms in evidence, brought up in the glory of the sky among exultants puttoes, with three-dimensional effects created by plaster clouds superposed on the gilded frames.
The Audience Hall is the bulk of the gallery and is also the largest room where the guests are received, in association or business meetings, book presentations or private events.
On the side of Piazza Borghese is the room of Hebe, the goddess of youth, raped by Time. The painting is by Ermenegildo Costantini e Pietro Rotati (1769). The image shows a typical baroque dynamism, in the gesture of the male figure strongly grabbing the goddess on her waist as in Proserpina’s sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The room of Cupid, once the princess’s antechamber, is a good example of rigorous neoclassical taste decoration, by the hand of the French artist Laurent Pécheux, whose signature is visible in one of the paintings on the side, dated 1774. At the centre of the vault is the canvas ‘Marriage of Cupid and Psyche’ and the lateral scenes recall the events preceding the marriage, with Mercury as love messenger.
The last room towards the tiber is the room of Minerva, with the windows opening on the garden. It is written that this room once was the ceremonial bedroom and it hosted the famous statue Ermafrodito, now in the museum of Galleria Borghese. The painting in the vault is ‘The reconciliation of Venus and Minerva’ by Pietro Angeletti (1773).