The second floor of the Palazzo dei Conservatori houses an important collection of paintings, which also includes many works of decorative and applied art.
The Capitoline Picture Gallery is the oldest public collection of paintings. It was built on the Capitoline hill between 1748 and 1750, with the purchase of paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – including masterpieces by Titian, Caravaggio and Rubens – coming from the Sacchetti and Pio di Savoia collections. Afterwards the collection of the museum has greatly increased: in particular, noteworthy is Count Francesco Cini’s legacy, whose collection of porcelains was donated to the gallery in 1881.
Hall 1 – Central Italy from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance
The room is dedicated to Italian painting of religious subjects of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, from the late fourteenth to the early sixteenth century; all the paintings in this space are on panel. The bigger pictures (“altar pieces”) decorated the altars of churches or chapels, the smaller ones were part of multiple panels (polyptychs). Especially in Florence, the circular format was typical of the devotional paintings for private residences and not for churches.
Hall 2 – The Sixteenth Century in Ferrara
The room houses paintings coming from Ferrara, the capital of a small independent duchy, ruled by the Este family, whose polished court attracted many writers and artists. The formal elegance is the main element of the artistic production of Ferrara, one of the main centres of Italian Renaissance.
Hall 3 – Venice and Its Territory: the Sixteenth Century
The particular emphasis on colours is the principal characteristics of venetian paintings, Thanks to the extended production of the workshops of Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Bassano, Venice greatly influenced all of European painting until the middle of the eighteenth century.
Hall 4 – Artistic trends in Rome during the seventeeth century
The room contains works that date between the third and sixth decades of the seventeenth century. They are ascribable to the intense period of the Roman Baroque art production. Rome was a place of meeting, formation, and study of artists from different places during the first half of the seventeenth century.
Hall 5 – Between the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: Emilia and Rome
Rome and Bologna were the two main cities of the Papal States. Their cultural relations developed from the beginning of the sixteenth century and consolidated over time: Bolognese artists maintained a constant attention to the formal elegance of classical type, while Roman artists tried to escape from the limits of late Mannerism.
Hall 6 – Paintings in Bologna from the Carracci to Guido Reni
The Bolognese Academy, founded by Annibale and Agostino Carracci and their cousin Ludovico, progressively developed a type of devotional art attentive of a new, profoundly religious sensitivity, tied to the spirit of the Counter-Reformation.
Hall of St. Petronilla – Artistic Trends in Rome during the Seventeenth Century
At the end of the sixteenth century, Rome was the main center of illustrative culture and the meeting place of artists of different origins. In the early 1590s, Caravaggio arrived in Rome from Lombardy where he remained until 1606 and deeply influenced the meaning of pictorial research.
Hall of Pietro da Cortona – Pietro da Cortona and his Circle
Baroque was born around the 1630s, out of the intense Roman cultural environment of the first decades of the seventeenth century, coinciding with the papacy of Urban VIII Barberini. Pietro da Cortona was the first authentic representative of this new style, especially for his grandiose scenes, the artist was also a model of an entire generation of painters.
Cini Gallery – European and Oriental Porcelain
The Cini Gallery houses a valuable porcelain collection donated to the Capitoline Museums by Count Francesco Cini in 1881, and increased over time with other donations of European and Oriental porcelain. The hall hosts also European paintings of the XVI-XVIII centuries and the series of Antwerp tapestries representing the storiy of Semiramis.
The Musei Capitolini date back to 1471, when Pope Sixtus IV donated to the people of Rome a group of bronze statues that until then had been kept at the Lateran. These statues constituted its original core collection. Various popes subsequently expanded the collection with works taken from excavations around Rome; some were moved from the Vatican, some, such as the Albani collection, were bought specifically for the museum. Around the middle of the eighteenth century, Pope Benedict XIV created a picture gallery. A considerable quantity of archaeological material was also added at the end of the nineteenth century when Rome became the capital of Italy and new excavations were carried out whilst creating two completely new districts were created for the expanding city.
The Museums’ collections are displayed in the two of the three buildings that together enclose the Piazza del Campidoglio: Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, the third being the Palazzo Senatorio. These two buildings are linked by an underground tunnel, which contains the Galleria Lapidaria and leads to the ancient Tabularium, whose monumental arches overlook the Forum.
The Palazzo Nuovo houses the collections of ancient sculpture made by the great noble families of the past. Their charming arrangement has remained substantially unchanged since the eighteenth century. They include the famous collections of busts of Roman philosophers and emperors, the statue of Capitoline Gaul, the Capitoline Venus, and the imposing statue of Marforio that dominates the courtyard.
The Conservators’ Apartment contains the original architectural nucleus of the building, decorated with splendid frescoes portraying the history of Rome. The ancient Capitoline bronzes on display here add to the noble atmosphere: the Capitoline She-wolf, Spinario and the Capitoline Brutus.
On the first floor of the palace, a huge glass room, recently built, contains the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which once stood in the Piazza del Campidoglio, and the imposing remains of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter. A section is also dedicated to the most ancient part of the Campidoglio’s history, from its first inhabitation until the construction of the sacred building, displaying the results of recent excavations. The halls that overlook the room contain works from the Horti of the Esquiline; the hall which connects the room to the apartments of the Palazzo dei Conservatori contains the Castellani collection, testimony to nineteenth century collecting practices.
On the second floor, the Capitoline Picture Gallery contains many important works, arranged in chronological order from late mediaeval times to the eighteenth century. The collection includes paintings by Caravaggio (Good Luck and St. John the Baptist), a massive canvas by Guercino (Burial of Saint Petronilla) and numerous paintings by Guido Reni and Pietro da Cortona.
The Palazzo Caffarelli-Clementino holds the numismatic collection, known as the Medagliere Capitolino. On display are many rare coins, medals, gems and jewels, as well as an area dedicated to temporary exhibitions.