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.)