Villa Medici
The Villa Medici is a mannerist villa
A villa was originally an ancient Roman upper-class country house. Since its origins in the Roman villa, the idea and function of a villa have evolved considerably. After the fall of the Roman Republic, villas became small farming compounds, which were increasingly fortified in Late Antiquity,...

 and an architectural complex with a garden contiguous with the larger Borghese gardens, on the Pincian Hill
Pincian Hill
The Pincian Hill is a hill in the northeast quadrant of the historical center of Rome. The hill lies to the north of the Quirinal, overlooking the Campus Martius...

 next to Trinità dei Monti
Trinità dei Monti
The church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti is a late Renaissance titular church in Rome, central Italy. It is best known for its commanding position above the Spanish Steps which lead down to the Piazza di Spagna...

 in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. The Villa Medici, founded by Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany was Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1587 to 1609, having succeeded his older brother Francesco I.-Biography:...

 and now property of the French State
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, has housed the French Academy in Rome
French Academy in Rome
The French Academy in Rome is an Academy located in the Villa Medici, within the Villa Borghese, on the Pincio in Rome, Italy.-History:...

 since 1803. A musical evocation of its garden fountains features in Ottorino Respighi
Ottorino Respighi
Ottorino Respighi was an Italian composer, musicologist and conductor. He is best known for his orchestral "Roman trilogy": Fountains of Rome ; Pines of Rome ; and Roman Festivals...

's Fontane di Roma
Fontane di Roma
Fontane di Roma is a 1916 work by the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi, now considered part of the Roman Trilogy of symphonic poems along with Feste Romane and Pini di Roma. Each of the four sections is meant to depict one of Rome’s fountains during different periods of the day and night...



In ancient times, the site of the Villa Medici was part of the gardens of Lucullus
Gardens of Lucullus
The Gardens of Lucullus were the setting for an ancient patrician villa on the Pincian Hill on the edge of Rome; they were laid out by Lucius Licinius Lucullus about 60 BCE...

, which passed into the hands of the Imperial family with Messalina
Valeria Messalina, sometimes spelled Messallina, was a Roman empress as the third wife of the Emperor Claudius. She was also a paternal cousin of the Emperor Nero, second cousin of the Emperor Caligula, and great-grandniece of the Emperor Augustus...

, who was murdered in the villa.

In 1564, when the nephews of Cardinal Giovanni Ricci of Montepulciano
Montepulciano is a medieval and Renaissance hill town and comune in the province of Siena in southern Tuscany, in Italy. Montepulciano, with an elevation of 605 m, sits on a high limestone ridge. By car it is 13 km E of Pienza; 70 km SE of Siena, 124 km SE of Florence, and...

 acquired the property, it had long been abandoned to viticulture. The sole dwelling was the Casina of Cardinale Marcello Crescenzi, who had maintained a vineyard here and had begun improvements to the villa under the direction of the Florentine Nanni Lippi, who had died however, before work had proceeded far. The new proprietors commissioned Annibale Lippi, the late architect's son, to continue work. Interventions by Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

 are a tradition.

In 1576 the property was acquired by Cardinal Ferdinando de' Medici
Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Ferdinando I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany was Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1587 to 1609, having succeeded his older brother Francesco I.-Biography:...

, who finished the structure to designs by Bartolomeo Ammanati
Bartolomeo Ammanati
Bartolomeo Ammannati was an Italian architect and sculptor, born at Settignano, near Florence. He studied under Baccio Bandinelli and Jacopo Sansovino and closely imitated the style of Michelangelo.He was more distinguished in architecture than in sculpture...

. The Villa Medici became at once the first among Medici properties in Rome, intended to give concrete expression to the ascendancy of the Medici among Italian princes and assert their permanent presence in Rome. Under the Cardinal's insistence, Ammanati incorporated into the design Roman bas-reliefs and statues that were coming to sight with almost every spadeful of earth, with the result that the facades of the Villa Medici, as it now was, became a virtual open-air museum. A series of grand gardens recalled the botanical gardens created at Pisa and at Florence by the Cardinal's father Cosimo I de' Medici
Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Cosimo I de' Medici was Duke of Florence from 1537 to 1574, reigning as the first Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1569.-Biography:...

, sheltered in plantations of pines, cypresses and oaks. Ferdinando de' Medici had a studiolo, a retreat for study and contemplation, built to the north east of the garden above the Aurelian wall. Now these rooms look onto Borghese gardens but would then have had views over the Roman countryside. These two rooms were only uncovered in 1985 by the restorer Geraldine Albers: the concealing whitewash had protected and conserved the superb fresco decoration carried out by Jacopo Zucchi 1576 and 1577.
Among the striking assemblage of Roman sculptures in the villa were some one hundred seventy pieces bought from two Roman collections that had come together through marriage, the Capranica and the della Valle collections. Three works that arrived at the Villa Medici under Cardinal Fernando, ranked with the most famous in the city: the Niobe Group and the Wrestlers
Wrestlers (sculpture)
The Wrestlers — also known as The Two Wrestlers , The Uffizi Wrestlers or The Pancrastinae — is a famous Roman marble sculpture after a lost Greek original of the third century BCE, now in the Uffizi collection in Florence, Italy-Description, style and authorship:The two young men are engaged in...

, both discovered in 1583 and immediately purchased by Cardinal Ferdinando, and the Arrotino
The Arrotino , or formerly the Scythian, thought to be a figure from a group representing the Flaying of Marsyas is a Hellenistic-Roman sculpture of a man crouching to sharpen a knife on a whetstone.The sculpture was excavated in the early sixteenth century, for it is recognizable in an inventory...

. When the Cardinal succeeded as Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1587, his elder brother having died, he satisfied himself with plaster copies of his Niobe Group, in full knowledge of the prestige that accrued to the Medici by keeping such a magnificent collection in the European city whose significance far surpassed that of their own capital. The Medici lions
Medici lions
The Medici lions are two lion sculptures placed around 1600 at the Villa Medici, Rome, Italy, and since 1789 displayed at the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence. The sculptures depict standing male lions with a sphere under one claw, looking to the side...

 were completed in 1598, and the Medici Vase
Medici Vase
The Medici Vase is a monumental marble bell-shaped krater sculpted in Athens in the second half of the 1st century AD as a garden ornament for the Roman market.-Description:...

 entered the collection at the Villa, followed by the Venus de' Medici
Venus de' Medici
The Venus de' Medici or Medici Venus is a lifesize Hellenistic marble sculpture depicting the Greek goddess of love Aphrodite. It is a 1st century BC marble copy, perhaps made in Athens, of a bronze original Greek sculpture, following the type of the Aphrodite of Cnidos, which would have been made...

 by the 1630s; the Medici sculptures were not removed to Florence until the eighteenth century. Then the antiquities from the Villa Medici formed the nucleus of the collection of antiquities in the Uffizi
The Uffizi Gallery , is a museum in Florence, Italy. It is one of the oldest and most famous art museums of the Western world.-History:...

, and Florence began to figure on the European Grand Tour
Grand Tour
The Grand Tour was the traditional trip of Europe undertaken by mainly upper-class European young men of means. The custom flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transit in the 1840s, and was associated with a standard itinerary. It served as an educational rite of passage...

The fountain in the front of the Villa Medici is formed from a red granite vase from ancient Rome. It was designed by Annibale Lippi in 1589. The view from the Villa looking over the fountain towards St Peter's in the distance has been much painted, but the trees in the foreground have now obscured the view.

Like the Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese
Villa Borghese may refer to:*The Villa Borghese Pinciana , the villa built by the architect Flaminio Ponzio , developing sketches by Scipione Borghese, who used it as a villa suburbana, a party villa, at the edge of Rome, and to house his art collection.**The Galleria...

 that adjoins them, the villa's gardens were far more accessible than the formal palaces such as Palazzo Farnese in the heart of the city. For a century and a half the Villa Medici was one of the most elegant and worldly settings in Rome, the seat of the Grand Dukes' embassy to the Holy See. When the male line of the Medici died out in 1737, the villa passed to the house of Lorraine
House of Lorraine
The House of Lorraine, the main and now only remaining line known as Habsburg-Lorraine, is one of the most important and was one of the longest-reigning royal houses in the history of Europe...

 and, briefly in Napoleonic times, to the Kingdom of Etruria
Kingdom of Etruria
The Kingdom of Etruria was a kingdom comprising the larger part of Tuscany which existed between 1801 and 1807. It took its name from Etruria, the old Roman name for the land of the Etruscans.It was created by the Treaty of Aranjuez, signed on 21 March 1801...

. In this manner Napoleon Bonaparte came into possession of the Villa Medici, which he transferred to the French Academy at Rome. Subsequently it housed the winners of the prestigious Prix de Rome
Prix de Rome
The Prix de Rome was a scholarship for arts students, principally of painting, sculpture, and architecture. It was created, initially for painters and sculptors, in 1663 in France during the reign of Louis XIV. It was an annual bursary for promising artists having proved their talents by...

, under distinguished directors including Ingres
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was a French Neoclassical painter. Although he considered himself to be a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, by the end of his life it was Ingres's portraits, both painted and drawn, that were recognized as his greatest...

 and Balthus
Balthasar Klossowski de Rola , best known as Balthus, was an esteemed but controversial Polish-French modern artist....

, until the prize was withdrawn in 1968.

In 1656 Christina, Queen of Sweden was said to have fired one of the cannon on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel Sant'Angelo
The Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as the Castel Sant'Angelo, is a towering cylindrical building in Parco Adriano, Rome, Italy. It was initially commissioned by the Roman Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family...

 without aiming it first. The wayward ball hit the villa, destroying one of the Florentine lilies that decorated the facade.

French Academy in Rome

In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte moved the French Academy in Rome
French Academy in Rome
The French Academy in Rome is an Academy located in the Villa Medici, within the Villa Borghese, on the Pincio in Rome, Italy.-History:...

 to the Villa Medici with the intention of preserving an institution once threatened by the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

. At first, the villa and its gardens were in a sad state, and they had to be renovated in order to house the winners of the Prix de Rome
Prix de Rome
The Prix de Rome was a scholarship for arts students, principally of painting, sculpture, and architecture. It was created, initially for painters and sculptors, in 1663 in France during the reign of Louis XIV. It was an annual bursary for promising artists having proved their talents by...

. In this way, he hoped to retain for young French artists the opportunity to see and copy the masterpieces of antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 and the Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...


The competition was interrupted during the first World War, and Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 confiscated the villa in 1941, forcing the Academy of France in Rome to withdraw until 1945. The competition and the Prix de Rome were eliminated in 1968 by André Malraux
André Malraux
André Malraux DSO was a French adventurer, award-winning author, and statesman. Having traveled extensively in Indochina and China, Malraux was noted especially for his novel entitled La Condition Humaine , which won the Prix Goncourt...

. The Académie des Beaux-Arts
Académie des beaux-arts
The Académie des Beaux-Arts is a French learned society. It is one of the five academies of the Institut de France.It was created in 1795 as the merger of the:* Académie de peinture et de sculpture...

 in Paris and the Institut de France
Institut de France
The Institut de France is a French learned society, grouping five académies, the most famous of which is the Académie française.The institute, located in Paris, manages approximately 1,000 foundations, as well as museums and chateaux open for visit. It also awards prizes and subsidies, which...

 then lost their guardianship of the Villa Medici to the Ministry of Culture and the French State.

From that time on, the boarders no longer belonged solely to the traditional disciplines (painting, sculpture, architecture, metal-engraving, precious-stone engraving, musical composition, etc.) but also to new or previously-neglected artistic fields (art history, archaeology, literature, stagecraft, photography, movies, video, art restoration
Art conservation and restoration
Conservation-restoration, also referred to as conservation, is a profession devoted to the preservation of cultural heritage for the future. Conservation activities include examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care...

, writing and even cookery.) Artists are no longer recruited by a competition but by application, and their stays generally vary from six to eighteen months.

The villa, its out-buildings, and its grounds were the object of a new rehabilitation and modernization campaign, in which the restoration of the facade over the gardens constitutes the most spectacular step. Work continued under the direction of the previous director, Richard Peduzzi
Richard Peduzzi
Richard Peduzzi is a French scenographer. He was the director of the French Academy in Rome from September 2002 to August 2008....

, and the Villa Medici resumed organizing exhibitions and shows created by its boarders.

Architectural influence

Several structures base their style on the villa. Architect Edward Lippincott Tilton designed the Hotel Colorado
Hotel Colorado
Hotel Colorado is an 1893 Italianate structure in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, USA, and one of the oldest hotels in Colorado.-History:Established by silver magnate and banker Walter Devereux, construction began in 1891 at a cost of $350,000. Edward Lippincott Tilton designed the building as a...

 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
The City of Glenwood Springs is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous city of Garfield County, Colorado, United States. The United States Census Bureau estimated that the city population was 8,564 in 2005...

, in 1893. Philanthropist James H. Dooley
James H. Dooley
James Henry Dooley was a Virginia lawyer, business leader, and philanthropist based in Richmond during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age.-Biography:...

 had a mansion called Swannanoa
Swannanoa (mansion)
Swannanoa is an Italianate villa built in 1912 by millionaire and philanthropist James H. Dooley above Rockfish Gap in northern Nelson County, Virginia, USA...

 built on Rockfish Gap, Virginia
Rockfish Gap
Rockfish Gap is a wind gap located in the Blue Ridge Mountains between Charlottesville and Waynesboro, Virginia, United States, through Afton Mountain, which is frequently used to refer to the gap....

, in 1912.

The marble Medici lions
Medici lions
The Medici lions are two lion sculptures placed around 1600 at the Villa Medici, Rome, Italy, and since 1789 displayed at the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence. The sculptures depict standing male lions with a sphere under one claw, looking to the side...

by the stairs to the courtyard served as inspiration for Bernard Foucquet's bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

 lions at Lejontrappan on the northern side of the Royal Palace in Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

 in 1700-1704.

See also

  • Villa Medicea di Cafaggiolo
  • Villa Medici at Careggi
    Villa Medici at Careggi
    The Villa Medici at Careggi is a patrician villa in the hills near Florence, Tuscany, central Italy.-History:The villa was among the first of a number of Medici villas, notable as the site of the Platonic academy founded by Cosimo de' Medici, who died at the villa in 1464...

  • Villa Medici in Fiesole
    Villa Medici in Fiesole
    The Villa Medici is a patrician villa in Fiesole, Tuscany, Italy, the fourth oldest of the villas built by the Medici family. It was built between 1451 and 1457.-External links:*...

  • Villa Medicea di Pratolino

External links

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