Villa Albani

The Villa Albani (later Villa Albani-Torlonia) in Rome was built at the Via Salaria for Cardinal Alessandro Albani, nephew of Pope Clement XI, between 1747 and 1767 by the architect Carlo Marchionni.

Projected in 1745, the building of the villa begun in 1751 according to Giuseppe Vasi and celebrated as complete in 1763, to house Cardinal Albani's evolving, constantly replaced and renewed collections of antiquities and ancient Roman sculpture, which soon filled the casino that faced the Villa down a series of formal parterres. Albani's lifelong friend Carlo Marchionni was the architect in charge, at the Villa and perhaps also for the two temples in the park, an Ionic temple of Diana and a sham ruin. The Albani antiquities were catalogued by the Cardinal's secretary, the first professional art historian, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who was supported by Albani from the time when the Seven Years' War stranded him in Rome without his pension, and whose own connoisseurship was sharpened by the connection.

After the Napoleonic upheavals the Albani heirs sold the villa to the Chigi, who eventually sold it to the Torlonia, the Roman bankers, to whom the villa still belongs. Cardinal Albani's coins and medals went to the Vatican Library, over which he had presided from 1761. The sarcophagi, columns and sculptures have been dispersed, but the famous bas-relief of Antinous remains in the villa.

Cardinal Alessandro Albani had another villa and park at Porto d'Anzio, that was finished in February 1732, but was habitable for a few weeks only in spring because of malaria. Perhaps the villa, and certainly a casina in the park were by Marchionni. Excavations in the park brought to light many ancient Roman sculptures. Here J. J. Winckelmann was housed.


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