Palazzo Doria Pamphilj Visit: Alex's Perspective


April 9, 2020

Written by Alex West, student from the University of Michigan who studied on the Arcadia Rome Program in the Spring of 2020. 

As I am currently confined to my home in Michigan due to COVID-19, I can’t help but reminisce about my last few days in Rome. It was truly one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The countless new friends, timeless experiences, and most importantly the food will not escape my memory. 

One of those last days was spent with my Museum Practices course in which Professor Dellheim led us through the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, a long-lasting palace of an aristocratic family. In this palace, there are rooms on rooms of priceless art pieces demonstrating the power and influence of this family. I recall sitting in the entranceway of the palace off of Via del Corso with the other students as the sun beat down on our faces. We watched over an enclosed garden with pretty fountains surrounded by orange and lemon trees; the entrance truly was an overlooked beauty of the palace. 

Professor Dellheim led us up the stairs and into the palace. We enter into the landscape room, a massive red room with paintings of different, beautiful landscapes throughout. I found the rationale behind such an epic room to begin fascinating. The overwhelming amount of paintings construed the extreme wealth of the family. The demonstration of power and wealth plays such an important role in private collections. These aristocratic families strived to have their guests to be in awe of their belongings as well as their influence. Room after room, we discovered excessively tall ceilings covered in art pieces head to toe.

We went through the ballroom and entered into the hallway gallery. In this section, many of the paintings were face level to encourage viewership and analyzation. If I visited on my own, my usual practice would be a quick stop, stare, next, and repeat, ; however, professor Dellheim halted this process for us students. She wanted us to actually analyze the paintings. Albeit a slow process, we started to discuss the painting and draw some of the meaning and purpose of the famous paintings from generations ago. One painting that stood out to me was the painting by Quinten Massys of moneylenders. With zero context, we were able to draw out some of the characters and motives of the painting. Instead of just looking, I analyzed each aspect of the painting from the money on the table, the bookkeeping, and the facial expressions to conclude that it was a negative depiction of bankers. Later we found out it was moneylenders, so basically modern-day bankers. I found it very rewarding to actually interpret the paintings rather than just stare. 

I moved through the extravagant palace and outside back onto Via del Corso with a little more knowledge than before. It is one of the last days I remember in Rome as it was one of the more gratifying days. The ability to analyze and interpret objects that I previously felt were out of my understanding is something that I will carry with me from the Museum Practices course.