Museo Nazionale Romano: Palazzo Altemps

Museum in Centro Storico

Just north of Piazza Navona, Palazzo Altemps is a beautiful late-15th-century palazzo, housing the best of the Museo Nazionale Romano’s formidable collection of classical sculpture. Many pieces come from the celebrated Ludovisi collection, amassed by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi in the 17th century.

Prize exhibits include the beautiful 5th-century Trono Ludovisi (Ludovisi Throne), a carved marble block whose central relief depicts a naked Venus (Aphrodite) being modestly plucked from the sea. In the neighbouring room, the Ares Ludovisi, a 2nd-century-BC representation of a young, clean-shaven Mars, owes its right foot to a Gian Lorenzo Bernini restoration in 1622.

Another affecting work is the Galata suicida (Gaul’s Suicide), a melodramatic depiction of a Gaul knifing himself to death over a dead woman.

The building itself provides an elegant backdrop with a grand central courtyard, a finely painted loggia and frescoed rooms. These include the Sala delle Prospettive Dipinte, which was adorned with landscapes and hunting scenes for Cardinal Altemps, the rich nephew of Pope Pius IV (r 1560–65) who bought the palazzo in the late 16th century.

The museum also houses pieces from the Museo Nazionale Romano’s Egyptian collection.