Hidden behind the grimy grey exterior of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, this wonderful gallery boasts one of Rome’s richest private art collections, with works by Raphael, Tintoretto, Titian, Caravaggio, Bernini and Velázquez, as well as several Flemish masters. Masterpieces abound, but the undisputed star is Velázquez' portrait of an implacable Pope Innocent X, who grumbled that the depiction was 'too real'. For a comparison, check out Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s sculptural interpretation of the same subject.
The opulent picture galleries are hung with floor-to-ceiling paintings, all ordered chronologically. In the Sala Aldobrandini look out for Titian’s Salomè con la testa del Battista (Salome with the Head of John the Baptist) – the severed head is possibly Titian's self-portrait and Salome a lover who spurned the artist – and two early Caravaggios: Riposo durante la fuga in Egitto (Rest During the Flight into Egypt) and Maddalene Penitente (Penitent Magdalen). Also of note is Alessandro Algardi's bust of Donna Olimpia, the formidable woman calling the shots behind Innocent X's papacy, and the Battaglia nel porto di Napoli (Battle in the Bay of Naples), one of the few paintings in Rome by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Palazzo Doria Pamphilj dates to the mid-15th century, but its current look was largely the work of the current owners, the Doria Pamphilj family, who acquired it in the 18th century. The Pamphilj’s golden age, during which the family collection was started, came during the papacy of one of their own, Innocent X (r 1644–55).
The excellent free audio guide, narrated by Jonathan Pamphilj, brings the place alive with family anecdotes and background information.