Villa Farnesina has been on my “need to visit” list for quite some time. One rainy afternoon, I decided to schlep across town. It was worth the trip.
This villa is one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture. In 1509, the wealthy banker Sienese Agostino Chigi commissioned architect Baldassarre Peruzzi (who was known mostly for his paintings) to build a villa for him in the country. The villa is located just across the river in Trastevere. Back in the day, Trastevere was considered the country as it was outside the city walls. Chigi was well connected and ran in some very rarefied circles. The location was perfect for him. He was close enough to the city for business and far enough away to build a grand space to entertain his friends, which included the Pope, with lavish banquets. Chigi, while a great host, was also a huge patron of the arts.
Rumor has it that Villa Farnesina was built over the ruins of the villa where Cleopatra met her lover Mark Antony for sexy times. When construction began, Chigi was in love with the infamous courtesan Imperia (supposedly she was the first woman to be called as such) but his second mistress, and later wife, Andreosia lived in the home. It’s not a surprise that the theme running through the villa is love.
Imperia was close to, and perhaps the lover of, the great artist Raphael. She was the model for several of the frescoes in the villa. Other painters along with Raphael and Peruzzi were, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giovanni da Udine, Giovanni Bazzi, Giulio Romano, and Giovan Francesco Penni.
In 1577 the Farnese family bought Villa Farnesina. It was given this name to set it apart from the villa they owned across the river in Piazza Farnese.
I hope return to Villa Farnesina during a sunny day and soak it all in. It’s beautiful.
Photos: Me and my iPhone.