Villa farnesina, Rome

   Baldassare Peruzzi built the Villa Farnesina for the papal banker Agostino Chigi in 1508-1511—the first suburban villa built in Rome in the 16th century. It replicated the country houses of the Roman patriciate described in ancient literature, its proportional relations of width, length, and height and tripartite plan taken directly from Vitruvius' treatise on architecture. Peruzzi provided a U-shaped two-storied structure with two open logge (now glazed over) on the ground floor. The Loggia di Psiche, between the two protruding wings, was originally the villa's main entry. In front of it was a podium, now sunken, used as a stage for theatrical productions. Its exterior frieze is sculpted all'antica with putti clasping festoons and ribbons, heralding the lighthearted nature of the villa's interior ornamentations. In the Loggia de Psiche (1517-1518), Raphael and assistants frescoed on the ceiling the Council of the Gods and the Wedding Banquet of Cupid and Psyche, both made to look like tapestries hung to protect visitors from the sun. The second loggia, the Sala di Galatea, overlooks the Tiber River and features Raphael's famed Galatea fresco (1513) on one of the walls and a ceiling by Peruzzi (c. 1511) that depicts the owner's astrological chart. Sebastiano del Piombo rendered the lunette frescoes with mythologies, including the Fall of Icarus and Fall of Phaeton. In c. 1517, Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, called il Sodoma, was charged with the decoration of the villa's bedroom, the Stanza delle Nozze. He painted scenes from the life of the ancient hero Alexander the Great, including his marriage to Roxana, his meeting with Darius' widow, and his taming of Bucephalus, his horse. Next to the Sala delle Nozze is the Sala delle Prospettive (1515-1517) by Peruzzi, a masterpiece of illusionism as the frescoes have transformed the room into a feigned loggia with painted views of the Roman countryside. Agostino Chigi died in 1520 and, at the end of the century, the Farnese purchased the villa, hence the name Farnesina. Today it functions as the Accademia dei Lincei, an academy of the sciences, and the Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe, the Roman department of drawings and prints.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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