Villa Giulia

From Academic Kids

The Villa Giulia stands in an area of Rome known as the 'Vigna Vechia' (which was once against the city walls) lying on the slopes where 'Monte Parioli' descends to the Tiber. The current villa is only a small part of a former property, comprising three vineyards. Here a party villa or 'Villa Suburbana' was built for Pope Julius III, who was an affable, deeply literate connoisseur of the arts, but no theologian.

Like all suburban villas, the Villa Giulia had an urban entrance (on the Roman Via Flaminia) and a formal but rural garden behind. The Villa itself was a threshold between two worlds, an essentially Roman conception that was adopted in every urbane culture of Western Europe. The casino was built from a design by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola in 1551 - 1553. However, Bartolomeo Ammanati, Giorgio Vasari, and Michelangelo worked there too; the Pope spent vast amounts of money enhancing the beauty of the villa which is one of the most delicate examples of Mannerist architecture.

Vignola's urban front of the building is a sombre two storey facade, each storey given equal value. It has at its centre the triple rhythm of a richly detailed triumphal arch flanked by symmetrical wings of two bays only. The facade is terminated at each end by Doric pilasters. In this facade of the Villa Giulia is the germ-idea of the seven-bay 18th century Georgian villa, which was reproduced as far away as Tidewater Virginia. The rear of the building has Ammanati's large loggia overlooking the first of three courtyards. The loggia gives access to the garden and central courtyard are obtained, two flights of marble steps lead to the heart of the villa complex - a Nympheum for alfresco dining during the heat of the summer. This three-levelled structure of covered loggias, decorated with marble statuary and balustrading, is constructed around a central fountain: here in this cool environment, sheltered from the blazing sun, daylong picnics would be held. The central fountain, Fontana dell'Acqua Vergine, is a wonderful work of art in itself, designed and sculpted by Vasari and Ammannati it depicts river gods and caryatids. The same water source fills the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

The Casino della Vigna ("little house in the vineyard"), as it was sometimes known, and its gardens were set in the midst of well-tended vineyards. At this time, before the English style of naturalistic landscaping gained in popularity, the most pleasant imaginable vista from a garden was that of orderly husbandry, where the hand of man had tamed the wanton disorder and danger that Nature represented. Papal parties would embark on a boats at the gates of The Vatican and be transported up the Tiber to the villa's long gone private landing stage, to enjoy the delights and magnificence of the Villa, stroll in the gardens and eat leisurely meals in the nympheum.

Following Pope Julius's death, his successor Pope Paul IV confiscated all the properties he had assembled; the villa was divided, the main building and part of the gardens became the property of the Camera Apostolica. The Villa was reserved for the use of the new pope's Borromeo nephews.

It was restored in 1769 on the initiative of Pope Clement XIV. It eventually became in 1870 the property of the Kingdom of Italy. Since the beginning of the 20th century it has housed the national museum for Etruscan Art, the Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia.

The Museo Nazionale Etrusco was founded in 1889 with the aim of collecting together all the pre-Roman antiquities of Latium, southern Etruria and Umbria belonging to the Etruscan civilization. Its most famous single treasure is the terracotta funerary monument, the almost life-size Bride and Groom ("Sarcofago degli Sposi") reclining happily as if they were at a dinner party.

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