Farnese palace in Rome, front view

Farnese Palace, 1523

The history of Farnese Palace begins with Alessandro Farnese, cardinal of S. Eustachio who, in 1534 ascended to the papal throne with the name of Paul III: it was he, in 1495, still a cardinal, who bought from the Augustinians of S. Maria del Popolo a ancient building in Rione Regola (rione means neighbourhood), together with the neighbouring houses, to give the commission, in 1523, to Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, to rebuild a palace for the family.

During construction, the architect had to change the project to make it more suitable for the client’s new status as pontiff. In 1536 the palace had already been enlarged but was not yet complete. In 1546, on the death of Sangallo, Michelangelo Buonarroti took over, completing the first floor, the cornice, the balcony and the “ricetto” gallery. Between 1569 and 1573 the rear wing with two large loggias was built by Vignola, to which Giacomo della Porta added a third, when he took over the management of the works. The Palazzo known as the “Farnese dice” was considered one of the four wonders of Rome.

In 1626 two fountains by Girolamo Rainaldi were placed in the garden, with two large basins of gray granite adorned with rings and lion heads from the Baths of Caracalla, placed on two mixtilinear pools.
Inside the palace you can admire the Fasti Farnesiani room, frescoed by Francesco Salviati, Taddeo Zuccari and his brother Federico, the Hall of Perspectives with 19th century frescoes, the bedroom of Cardinal Ranuccio with a frieze by Daniele da Volterra , the Sala degli Imperatori once adorned with twelve busts of emperors, the Carracci dressing room by Annibale Carracci, the rooms on Via dei Farnesi with frescoes by Domenichino.

Michelangelo’s project involved the construction of a bridge that would cross the Tiber and join the façade of the Palazzo Farnese on Via Giulia to the Villa Chigi later known as the Farnesina.

At the end of the eighteenth century the building was in a total state of neglect and it was only in 1864 that Ferdinand II of Bourbon decided to entrust Antonio Cipolla with the restorations. In 1874 the palace was leased to France, who bought it in 1911, for three million francs subject to redemption within twenty-five years. The Italian state exercised this right in 1936 and then ceded the building to France for ninety-nine years, with a symbolic fee.
Today the building is the seat of the French embassy.

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