Hall of the Geese, Conservators’ Apartment, Capitoline Museums

The room’s pictorial decorations date back to the mid-XVI century, during the papacy of Pope Paul III The frieze consists of small panels, with playful scenes set against a background of real or imaginary landscapes, alternating with military trophies and floral and fruit triumphs. The two bronze geese that give the room its name were placed here in the XVIII century, together with a bronze vase in the shape of a bust of Isis and a head of Medusa by Bernini.

Hall of the Geese houses the head of Medusa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which represents Costanza Piccolomini Bonarelli, an eighteenth-century portrait of Michelangelo Buonarroti and a whole series of small bronze works that had been purchased by Pope Benedict XIII. We also remember a bronze vase where we find the bust of Isis depicted; the rich coffered ceiling with golden vases and shields; just below a frieze where various landscapes are framed. In the center of the room a canteen decorated with scenes from the life of Achilles.

The group of works was related to the sack of Rome by the Galli Senoni of 390 BC, when the sacred geese of the Capitoline temple of Juno warned Marco Manlio, consul of 392 BC, of the attempted entry by the besieging Gauls, thus making their plan fail.

Since the Eighteenth century, two Roman bronze ducks are displayed in this room: they are traditionally interpreted as geese, in memory of the legendary Capitoline geese who saved Rome, during the night, from the attacking Gauls.

The remarkable fresco decoration of the hall, as well as the beautiful wooden ceiling, date back to the time of Pope Paul III (1534-1549), when three of the halls (the Hall of the Geese, the Hall of the Eagles and the Hall of the Tapestries) of the Palazzo were completed. In the painted frieze one can see trophies of arms, flowers and fruits, and decoration of grotesque carvings followed by scenes of ancient games played in real or fantastic Roman landscapes. It is worthy of praise the panel that reproduces the image of the Capitoline’s Piazza Campidoglio, before Michelangelo’s work, with the church of Ara Coeli on the background.

The recent restoration of the wooden ceiling has brought to light the old “the colour of air” background against which stand out golden rosettes of various types, with vases and shields. During the Eighteenth century, some decorations in gilded stucco were added to the room, framing different elements such as sculptures, paintings, inscriptions.

In the same period a sculpture of great value was also placed here: the Head of Medusa by the sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680). The work very effectively portrays the mythical figure of the Medusa, whose petrifying gaze and snake hair are rendered by the sculptor with grace and power.

Highlights works
Bust of Medusa. Sculpture. Gian Lorenzo Bernini. 1644-1648
Vase in the form of a bust of Isis. Ceramics. 3th century AD
Bust of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Bust of Michelangelo Buonarroti. Sculpture
Frieze with the Capitoline square towards the Aracoeli. Fresh. Third-fourth decade of the 17th century

Conservators’ Apartment
The rooms making up the apartment on the first floor of the Palazzo, were used by the Conservators, or magistrates, for activities connected to their office; they therefore form a single entity, both as regards their function and their ornamental features. The rooms were also used for Public and Private Council meetings. The rich decoration of these reception rooms (frescoes, stuccoes, carved ceilings and doors, tapestries) has as its main theme the history of Ancient Rome, from its foundation to the Republican Age. The earliest cycle of frescoes goes back to the beginning of the XVI century.

The main floor of the Palace houses the Ceremonial Rooms of the Conservators, also known as the Apartment. They are the oldest part of the Palace: some rooms preserve parts of the series of frescoes painted at the beginning of the XVI century, whereas the decorations of the other rooms were renewed after Michelangelo’s renovation.

The whole decoration of the Apartment, though it was painted separately and subsequently, present a uniform appearance dedicated to the extolling and memory of the virtues and value of the Ancients. Some ancient bronze sculptures were also installed in these rooms: they were presented by Pope Sixtus IV to the Roman people due to their symbolic value, in memory of the greatness of Rome which the papal government intended to renew.

The donation of the Sistine bronzes is considered to be the foundation of Capitoline Museums, since then several works of art, sculpture and paintings of value, were collected in the Capitol.

Capitoline Museums
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.