Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica — Galleria Corsini ☆☆☆

Galleria Corsini, Rome, Italy (Photo by Patrick Rasenberg)

Great Renaissance and baroque paintings at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in the Palazzo Corsini alla Lungara

This 15th-century Trastevere palazzo at the foot of the Gianicolo Hill served as a time as the palace-away-from-home for Queen Cristina of Sweden, who abdicated her throne, converted to Catholocism, and lived in Rome—on and off—from 1654 until her death 1689.

Palazzo Corsini now houses the original half of Rome's National Gallery of paintings (the other half's in the Palazzo Barberini, near Via Veneto).

The paintings are hung sort of all squished together, but its worth a visit for some surprisingly big names—surprising because barely anyone even knows this painting gallery exists.

be on the lookout for Murillo's Madonna and Child,a golden triptych by Fra' Angelico, the Tarqunia Madonna with a chubby babby Jesus by Filippo Lippi, and fine works by Andrea del Sarto, Rubens, Titan, Tintoretto, Van Dyck, Joos van Cleve, Guercino, and Luca Giordano.

Interestingly, two of the best works—by Caravaggio and Guido Reni—provide bookends to the life of John the Baptist.

The John the Baptist paintings

Caravaggio's St. John the Baptist (1603) presents the future saint in one of Caravaggio's favorite subjects (both on and off the canvas): a nubile youth, gazing from under a shaggy mop of boy-band hair as an oversized, heavy red robe or blanket slips off. Is he just sitting up, or lying down?

Guido Reni is—unusually for him, but appropriately for our comparisons here—using a carvaggiesque chiaroscuro pallete in his Salome with the Head of St. John the Baptist, painted some 30 years later around 1630–35. That nubile boy has grown to a dour old holy man, a bit bedraggled from years of living in the wild, performing baptisms. Or at least that's how his head looks.

According to the gospels, John the Baptist met his end by angering Heriodas, the queen. He denounced her second marriage to her half-uncle/brother-in-law, King Herod Antipas (the Herodian Dynasty of Judaea had rather tangled family trees).

Herodias had her daughter, Salome, come and perform a dance for her new step-father/half-uncle, and he was so smitten he immediately promised her anything she desired.

Salome consulted with her vengeful mother, who told her to ask for John the Baptist's head on a platter. Conveniently, John was already in prison, so the king—reluctantly, but oath-bound—obliged and presented Salome with the poor saint's head on a silver charger.

Somehow, this has led to Salome being tarred as one of history's great seductresses, when the gospels, if anything, make her out only to be a pawn in Herodian family politics. All she did was dance.

(And it's only the gospels that we find the story—Mark 6:21-29 and Matthew 14:6-11, if you're interested. Contemporary historical accounts only note that Heriodas had a daughter, and make no connection with the life—or death—of the Baptist.)

Photo gallery
  • , Galleria Corsini, Italy (Photo by Patrick Rasenberg)
  • The fireplace room, Galleria Corsini, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • The green room, Galleria Corsini, Italy (Photo by Sailko)
  • Triptych (1604–05) by Annibale Carracci, Galleria Corsini, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • , Galleria Corsini, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • The Rape of the Sabine Women (1506–07) by Il Sodoma, Galleria Corsini, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
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Free or reduced admission with a sightseeing card

Get into Galleria Corsini for free (and skip the line at the ticket booth) with:

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How long does Galleria Corsini take?

Figure on spending 45–90 minutes in the museum, depending on how much you like art.

(Also, expect it to take a bit longer than you'd think, since you have to spend some time matching up paintings to the corresponding little maps of the walls in each room so you can identify works; they aren't labeled as in a modern museum—though occasionally a frame will have a tiny ID plaque nailed to it from a century or two ago).

The ticket desk closes 30 minutes before the museum.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for sightseeing

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is?... Dov'é doh-VAY
...the museum il museo eel moo-ZAY-yo
...the church la chiesa lah key-YAY-zah
...the cathedral il duomo [or] la cattedrale eel DUO-mo [or] lah cah-the-DRAH-leh
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
Closed day giorno di riposo JOR-no dee ree-PO-zo
Weekdays (Mon-Sat) feriali fair-ee-YA-lee
Sunday & holidays festivi fe-STEE-vee
ticket biglietto beel-YET-toh
two adults due adulti DOO-way ah-DOOL-tee
one child un bambino oon bahm-BEE-no
one student uno studente OO-noh stu-DENT-ay
one senior un pensionato oon pen-see-yo-NAH-toh

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).



Narcissus (1594–96) by Caravaggio (Photo Public Domain)
Palazzo Barberini
Rome: Via Veneto & Villa Borghese

Rome's Palazzo Barberini serves as half of the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, a collection of Old Masters from Raphael to Caravaggio