The Charm of the Alexander VII Gallery After Its Restoration

No longer one single area, the gallery is one of the most fascinating parts of the palace, following its restoration. Today, the 17th-century frescoes stand side by side with decorations from the 1800s

Virtual reconstruction of the Gallery of Alexander VII in the 17th centuryQuirinale Palace

Measuring 74 yards (68 m) long, it was built for Pope Sixtus V in the west wing of the palace, created since 1588. 

It had no permanent decoration until 1655, when Pope Alexander VII commissioned the painter Pietro da Cortona to complete a cycle of frescoes.

This virtual reconstruction shows the appearance of the Gallery in the 1600s. It was a unique space with an original design of light and decoration that would become a model for all subsequent European galleries.

It was divided into three halls in 1812, during the Napoleonic occupation of the palace, to create an apartment for Empress Marie Louise. 

The restoration work began in 2001, and revealed the decorative cycles that had been covered up.

The reopening of the windows that had been walled up during the French period also restored the stunning brightness to the gallery.

View of the Yellow RoomQuirinale Palace

The Yellow Room

On leaving the rooms of Paul V's apartment, the next area in the south wing of the Quirinal Palace is the Sala Gialla (Yellow Room).

Today, it is arranged as it was before the Napoleonic works, with the windows reopened and the 17th-century frescoes reinstated.

View of the Yellow RoomQuirinale Palace

Biblical Scenes on the Short Walls

The decorations completed between 1656 and 1657, by the group of painters chosen and directed by Pietro da Cortona include the large fresco with Joseph Identifying Himself to His Brothers painted by Pier Francesco Mola.

Porta del Popolo

Under the fresco, after the 2008 restorations, there is a monochrome featuring two cherubs bearing a medal with a view of Santa Maria del Popolo and the inner façade of the Porta del Popolo (gate of the Aurelian Walls in Rome).

The Porta del Popolo and the Church of Santa Maria del PopoloQuirinale Palace

The Porta del Popolo appeared in the Bernini arrangement of 1655, when Alexander VII wanted to make something worthy for the triumphal entry of Christina, Queen of Sweden in Rome, planned for December of that year: the passage of the queen through the gate confirmed her conversion to Catholicism.

View of the Yellow RoomQuirinale Palace

Denis Masson Clock

On the table, in front of the medallion, there is a large mantel clock from the mid 1700s, designed by Denis Masson, a master clockmaker from Paris.

The piece which is in classic Louis XV style, belonged to the collections of the Duchy of Parma and arrived at the Quirinal Palace in 1888.

Biblical scenes on the long walls

In the top part of the long walls there are frescoes of other episodes of the Old Testament, dating back to the 17th century.

They feature Joseph Sold by His Brothers, the Reconciliation of Esau and Jacob, Jacob and the Angel, the Explorers of the Promised Land, the Crossing of the Red Sea, and Moses and the Burning Bush.

The 17th-century decorations were revealed during the restoration

Underneath the top frieze, in the lower part of the walls, there is some decoration revealed during the restoration.

Between the windows, there are pairs of columns which protrude from woodland backgrounds, alternating with monochrome frames with male figures near an altar.

Virtual reconstruction of the Gallery of Alexander VII in the 17th centuryQuirinale Palace

Originally the columns continued in height, alternating with biblical scenes.

It can be seen in this image that reconstructs the seventeenth-century decorative arrangement.

Virtual reconstruction of the Gallery of Alexander VII in the 17th centuryQuirinale Palace

Thanks to these virtual reconstructions we can admire the original decoration in its entirety, when the paintings of Pietro da Cortona and his disciples adorned the entire Gallery of Alexander VII.

Detail of niche decoration with vase and flowers in the Yellow RoomQuirinale Palace

19th-century decorations

Currently, the top part of the columns are invisible because they are covered by frescos completed during the Napoleonic period and at the time of Pius IX, who ordered some Napoleonic pictures to be replaced with temperas of an allegorical or purely ornamental nature.

View of the fireplace and a monochrome panel with biddersQuirinale Palace

Fireplace

This room still has the fireplace from the Napoleonic refurbishment which the Roman stonemasons, the Cardellis, completed in 1812, in white marble with green panels.

The fireplace is embellished with three oval medallions, completed using the micro-mosaic technique, featuring three cardellini (goldfinches), probably to refer to the surname of the stonemasons.

Medallion with goldfinch - Detail of the fireplace, Roman stonemasons Cardelli, 1812, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
Medallion with goldfinch - Detail of the fireplace, Roman stonemasons Cardelli, 1812, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
View of the Courtyard of Honor towards the Gregorian Palace, Roman stonemasons Cardelli, 1812, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
Show lessRead more

Medallion with goldfinch - Detail of the fireplace (1812) by Roman stonemasons CardelliQuirinale Palace

Micro mosaics

Micro mosaics are characterized by the use of tiny tiles in different shapes, suitable for smaller compositions, as with these precious medallions

The placement of different-sized tiles complements the curves of the design and creates the shades on the plumage of the goldfinches.

View of the Yellow RoomQuirinale Palace

The Sala Gialla has a curious feature: during the four conclaves that took place in the Quirinal Palace in the 19th century, this area was used as a dressing room for the new pontiff, due to its proximity to the Pauline Chapel (Cappella Paolina).

View of the Hall of AugustusQuirinale Palace

The Augustus Room

The Sala Gialla leads to La Sala di Augusto (Augustus Room).

The visual impact is the result of the 2005 renovations that almost fully restored the 17th-century decoration, and returned the original brightness to the space by reinstating the five windows that were closed during the Napoleonic period.

Today, on the lower part of the walls, there are high monochrome pedestals decorated with plant motifs and pairs of seahorses. On the pedestals rest frames of male patron figures and large pairs of columns which stand out against the background of foliage including, curiously, bunches of grapes.

Detail of the 17th century decoration that emerged with the 2001 restoration, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
Box with male figures making the offerings - Detail of the decoration in the lower part of the walls, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
Detail of the 17th century decoration, 1656/1657, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
Show lessRead more

The top part of the frieze

At the top, there are 17th-century biblical scenes featuring: the Sacrifice of Isaac, the Egress, and the Ingress to Noah's Ark, David Kills Goliath, Gideon Wrings Dew Out of the Fleece and Joshua's Victory over the Amorites.

Frames with a gold background from the Napoleonic period are alternated and conceal the top part of the columns.

Detail of the ceiling with the Prophets (1864) by Tommaso MinardiQuirinale Palace

The ceiling

The coffered ceiling is from the Napoleonic era.

At the center, at the time of Pius IX, in 1864, the monochrome painting with the Prophets by Tommaso Minardi was installed, which still stands out today from the decor of the wooden ceiling.

August's Bust (Late 19th - early 20th century)Quirinale Palace

The bust of Augustus

The room's current name comes from the marble bust of Augustus, a partial copy from the late 19th century of the famous statue of Augustus of Prima Porta, acquired at the time of Hitler's visit to the Quirinal Palace in 1938.

In the La Sala di Augusto, the five windows that look out onto the courtyard are of particular interest because they were reopened in 2005. Having been bricked up for almost two centuries, the monochrome decoration from 1656 to 1657, and the red and yellow terracotta floor arranged in alternate colors were practically intact.

Window in the Hall of Augustus, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
View of one of the windows of the Hall of Augustus, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
Original 17th century terracotta floor, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
Show lessRead more

The top part of the windows shows an oak tree with intertwined branches, a symbol of the Chigi family, of which the commissioning pope, Alexander VII, was a member. The pontiff's monogram—the initial A interlaced with the numeral VII—appears on the right-hand splay of the second window, in front of the acronym POM (Pontifex Optimus Maximus) painted in the center of the left-hand splay.

Oak with intertwined branches, detail of the canopy of the windows, 1656/1657, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
Window in the Hall of Augustus, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
Detail of the left side of the second window overlooking the Courtyard of Honor, 1656/1657, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
Show lessRead more

In the central window, the ancient wooden shutters are preserved, and they are still closed using the original latches. The shutters were not actually removed by the French functionaries when the windows were walled up in 1812, and they are the only remaining component of the original fixtures. The shutters date back to the time of Alexander VII. The detailed latch handle embellished with a small, acorn-shaped knob refers back to the oak tree—the emblem of Alexander VII's family, the Chigi family.

Detail of the shadows of the central window, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
Detail of the latch handle of the shutters of the central window, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
Detail of the latch handle of the shutters of the central window, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
Show lessRead more

The gold decorations on the inside of the shutters, only visible when they are open, were commissioned at a later time by Pope Clement XIII. The decorations, which were protected and hidden for almost two centuries, are still bright and intact today; they display the symbols of the tower and the crowned double-headed eagle present in the coat of arms of Pope Clement XIII, who commissioned them in 1763.

August's Bust, Late 19th - early 20th century, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
Tower, heraldic symbol of the coat of arms of Clement XIII, Giovanni Angeloni, 1763, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
Double-headed eagle, heraldic symbol of the coat of arms of Clement XIII, Giovanni Angeloni, 1763, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
Show lessRead more

View of the Hall of the AmbassadorsQuirinale Palace

The Ambassadors Room

Continuing on from La Sala di Augusto is La Sala degli Ambasciatori (Ambassadors Room), so-called because, in the Savoy period, it was reserved for receiving dignitaries.

This area was also part of the Alexander VII gallery and endured the same events as the neighboring rooms.

View of the Hall of the AmbassadorsQuirinale Palace

17th-century frescoes

The restoration enabled the recovery of 17th-century frescoes on the bottom part of the walls and reopening of the windows onto the Courtyard of Honour (Cortile d'Onore).

When the gallery was still a single area, this room contained the start of the narration of the 17th-century biblical frieze, which continued into the Augustus Room and the Yellow Room and finished back in this area.

The biblical cycle

The biblical cycle, spanning paintings from the 1800s, which cover the top part of the columns, features: God Admonishes Adam and Eve, the Expulsion from Paradise, the Sacrifices of Cain and Abel the Judgment of Solomon, Cyrus frees the Israelites from exile in Babylon, and the Annunciation.

The narration ends with the Adoration of the Shepherds by Carlo Maratta.

Adorazione dei Pastori (1656/1657) by Carlo MarattaQuirinale Palace

The Adoration of the Shepherds

The work features Mary, who stands out against the glow beaming down from the clouds with cherubs celebrating the birth of Jesus, and Joseph, who is showing the child to the shepherds who had rushed to Bethlehem after the announcement of the divine event.

The magnificent fresco accentuates the compositional and pictorial qualities of Maratta who created many iconographies of Mary.

View of the Hall of the AmbassadorsQuirinale Palace

This stunning image of the birth of Christ is found on the short wall opposite the entrance and concludes the biblical cycle in the Alexander VII gallery, which contains a symbolic reference to the story of Salvation or the purity of Mary.

The Church of Santa Maria della Pace

Underneath Maratta's fresco, the restoration revealed a view of the church of Santa Maria della Pace. The church's façade, designed by Pietro da Cortona for Alexander VII, was erected at the same time as the completion of these paintings.

The four Adoring Angels, visible at the sides of the fresco by Maratta, date back to the decoration carried out at the time of Pope Pius IX, and are the work of the painter Luigi Cochetti, who completed it in 1848.

One of the four Adoring Angels, Luigi Cochetti, 1848, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
One of the four Adoring Angels, Luigi Cochetti, 1848, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
One of the four Adoring Angels, Luigi Cochetti, 1848, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
One of the four Adoring Angels, Luigi Cochetti, 1848, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
Show lessRead more

Mission of the Apostles (1864) by Tommaso MinardiQuirinale Palace

The Mission of the Apostles

The design of the large painted mural on the other short wall also dates back to the time of Pius IX.

Tommaso Minardi painted the Mission of the Apostles in 1864, when the kingdom of Italy had already been proclaimed but the Papal State had not yet been annexed.

The painting represents the last important religious work with a strong doctrinal content, commissioned by a pope for the Quirinal Palace in 1870, before the papal palace was converted into the seat of the kings of Italy.

Detail of mosaic flooring in the Hall of the Ambassadors (1st century AD)Quirinale Palace

The mosaic floor

The Napoleonic interventions involved not only the construction of the partition wall which divides the gallery, but also the renovation of the floor, which was embellished with mosaic frames.

This is the work of Carlo Albacini who in 1813 designed the arrangement of 15 precious panels with depictions of winged animals, dating back to the 1st century CE, which came from a room in Hadrian's Villa (Villa Adriana) in Tivoli.

Solomon's Judgment (1823) by Francesco MannoQuirinale Palace

The ceiling

The ceiling was also restructured and completely redecorated in the Napoleonic period.

The decorations in gold on blue and white backgrounds with spirals, eagles, and winged figures, and the paintings on a red background depicting some classical divinities date back to the same period.

The large paintings on the ceiling are however from a later period: they were completed in 1823, almost 10 years after the French occupation and the return of Pope Pius VII to the Quirinal Palace.

In the center, Francesco Manno painted the Judgment of Solomon, a subject which appears twice in the room.

Next to the large central canvas, in the side tondi, there are two other canvases featuring Wisdom, and the Judgment, painted by Francesco Manno.

Detail of the decoration on the ceiling in the Hall of the Ambassadors, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
,
The ceiling of the Hall of the Ambassadors with Justice, Francesco Manno, 1823, From the collection of: Quirinale Palace
Show lessRead more

The Hall of the Ambassadors is the last part of the Alexander VII gallery. The next room is the Hercules Room (Sala di Ercole), one of the newest in the Quirinal Palace, created in 1940.

Explore the Hercules Room!

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Palazzo del Quirinale
The Home of all Italians opens its doors to everyone
View theme
Google apps