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Rome Reports

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Villa Farnesina: Renaissance Rome's luxurious setting for gossip

This is Villa Farnesina, built by one of the Renaissance's most famous architects and painters, Baldassare Peruzzi, under the authority of banker Agostino Chigi. 

It was the center of disputes between three of the Renaissances geniuses: Raphael, Piombo, and Michelangelo. 

Agostino Chigi wanted a painting that reflected his love and impossible relationship with Francesca Ordeaschi. In order to do so, he called upon two rivals: Raphael Sanzio and Sebastián del Piombo. They each created these two famous paintings, the "Polyphemus" and "The Triumph of Galatea.”

Director of Villa Farnesina

"Sebastián del Piombo was Michelangelo Buonarroti's favorite student in Rome. Since then, the rivalry between Michelangelo's pupil and the 'divine master,' Raphael, began during the decoration of this villa.”

In fact, legend says that Michelangelo, eager to see what Raphael was wearing, decided to sneak into the villa disguised as a street vendor. In the midst of artistic and competitive tension, he draws this head with charcoal in the leaves. Raphael, when he returns, recognizes the portrait is that of Michelangelo, but leaves it in recognition of his rival. 

However, according to the work's recent studies, Virginia Lapenta says that though it is a fun legend, it is not true. 

Director of Villa Farnesina

"They found two initials at the bottom of this work, B.P. Therefore, today's scholars are convinced that it is the self-portrait of the villa's architect, Baldassarre Peruzzi. We could consider it the pictorial signature that the architect left in the building he created."

There are also other treasures to be seen in Villa Farnesina. For example, Roxana and Alexander the Great Hall, the prospective room or this grafitti, made by one of Charles V's German soldiers during the sack of Rome.