Rome, Villa Borghese

Témoignage de John Evelyn (1644)

17th. I wal­ked to vil­la Bor­ghese, a house and ample gar­den on Mons Pin­cius, yet somew­hat without the city-walls, cir­cum­scri­bed by ano­ther wall full of small tur­rets and ban­que­ting-houses ; which makes it appear at a dis­tance like a lit­tle town. Within it is an ely­sium of delight, having in the centre of it a noble palace ; but the entrance of the gar­den pre­sents us with a very glo­rious fabric, or rather door-case, ador­ned with divers excellent marble sta­tues. This gar­den aboun­ded with all sorts of deli­cious fruit and exo­tic simples, foun­tains of sun­dry inven­tions, groves, and small rivu­lets. There is also adjoi­ning to it a viva­rium for ostriches, pea­cocks, swans, cranes, &c., and divers strange beasts, deer, and hares. The grot­to is very rare, and repre­sents, among others devices, arti­fi­cial rain, and sun­dry shapes of ves­sels, flo­wers, &c. ; which is effec­ted by chan­ging the heads of the foun­tains. The groves are of cypress, lau­rel, pine, myrtle and olive. The four sphin­xes are very antique and wor­thy obser­va­tion. To this is a vola­ry, full of curious birds. The house is square with tur­rets, from which indeed com­mon­ly conti­nues even a great part of the sum­mer, affor­ding sweet refresh­ment. Round the house is a balus­ter of white marble, with frequent jet­tos of water, and ador­ned with a mul­ti­tude of sta­tues. The walls of the house are cove­red with antique incrus­ta­tions of his­to­ry, as that of Cur­tius, the Rape of Euro­pa, Leda, &c. The cor­nices above consist of frui­tages and fes­toons, bet­ween which are niches fur­ni­shed with sta­tues, which order is obser­ved to the very roof. In the lodge, at the entry, are divers good sta­tues of Consuls, &c., with two pieces of field-artille­ry upon car­riages, (a mode much prac­ti­sed in Ita­ly before the great men’s houses) which they look on as a piece of state more than defence. In the first hall within, are twelve Roman Empe­rors, of excellent marble ; bet­wixt them stand por­phy­ry columns, and other pre­cious stones of vast height and magni­tude, with urns of orien­tal ala­bas­ter. Tables of pie­tra-com­mes­sa :and here is that renow­ned Dia­na which Pom­pey wor­ship­ped, of eas­tern marble : the most incom­pa­rable Sene­ca of touch, blee­ding in an huge vase of por­phy­ry, resem­bling the drops of his blood ; the so famous Gla­dia­tor, and the Her­ma­phro­dite upon a quilt of stone. The new piece of Daphne, and David, of Cava­lie­ro Ber­ni­ni, is obser­vable for the pure whi­te­ness of the stone, and the art of the sta­tua­ry plain­ly stu­pen­dous. There is a mul­ti­tude of rare pic­tures of infi­nite value, by the best mas­ters ; huge tables of por­phy­ry, and two exqui­si­te­ly wrought vases of the same. In ano­ther cham­ber, are divers sorts of ins­tru­ments of music : among­st other toys that of a satyr, which so arti­fi­cial­ly expres­sed a human voice, with the motion of eyes and head, that it might easi­ly affright one who was not pre­pa­red for that most extra­va­gant sight. They sho­wed us also a chair that catches fast any who sits down in it, so as not to be able to stir out, by cer­tain springs concea­led in the arms and back the­reof, which at sit­ting down sur­prises a man on the sud­den, locking him in by the arms and thighs, after a true trea­che­rous Ita­lian guise. The pers­pec­tive is also consi­de­rable, com­po­sed by the posi­tion of loo­king-glasses, which ren­der a strange mul­ti­pli­ca­tion of things resem­bling divers most richly fur­ni­shed rooms. Here stands a rare clock of Ger­man work ; in a word, nothing but what is magni­ficent is to be seen in Para­dise.

(The dia­ry of John Eve­lyn, Ed. William Bray, J.M. DENT et E.P DULTON, Lon­don-New York, 1905, Tome I, p.117–118.)