Rome is an iconic city for a reason. Filled with world-renowned cuisine, art, history, and culture, it’s a destination alive with a storied past. But there are still a few hidden gems left to discover for the expert traveler.
When visiting Rome, Italy, one of the lesser-known tourist attractions is the Palazzo Spada Museum. A palace located in the Regola district, it contains an exquisite art collection showcasing the works of Guido Reni, Artemisia Gentileschi, Rubens, Caravaggio, Titian, Guercino, and many more art legends. The museum owes its name and collections to the Spada family, as brothers Caridinal Bernardino and Virginio first assembled it in the 17th century.
The true treasure of the Palazzo Spada Museum is the Borromini perspective gallery. Located in the museum’s courtyard, it is an optical illusion created by strategically placed columns down an aisle. The colonnade leads to a statue of Mars that appears like a larger-than-life hero. This perspective is created by columns, making the corridor look shorter than it is, which in turn makes the statue appear taller than its real height.
Francesco Borromini was born Francesco Castelli. To seek recognition and success as an artist, and to get away from his surname that came attached with problems of debt, he changed his name to Borromini. The change worked, as he found his big break when he was commissioned to design San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. It’s here his mastery of mathematics first shone with an illusion he created in which the lower walls seem to weave in and out. You can find the church and see Borromini’s early work on Via del Quirinale.
This expertise in mathematics led to his brilliant accomplishment with the perspective gallery. But he had a little help from an Augustinian priest named Giovanni Maria da Bitonto, who was an expert in perspective technique in his own right.
The Palazzo Spada Museum is a worthy sight to visit even without the Borromini perspective gallery. Decorated in grand splendor with terracotta floors, painted ceilings, and plush furniture, it’s the pinnacle of palace ornamentation. Other artworks like Orazio Gentileschi’s portrait “David Contemplating the Head of Goliath” from 1610 and Pietro Testa’s sculpture “An Allegory on the Massacre of the Innocents” from 1639 fascinate every traveler’s inner artist.