The massive Palazzo Colonna, built in a series of additions throughout the 15th century up until 1730, houses the impressive Galleria Colonna, the Colonna family’s private art collection. Descendents of the family still live in the palazzo, so it is only open on Saturday mornings for public viewings. In 1654 – 1655, Cardinal Girolamo Colonna established the galleria, which now consists of paintings from the 14th to 18th centuries, Roman statues, and colorful frescoes. Works by famous painters such as Tintoretto, Guido Reni, Paolo Veronese, and Caracci are included in the collection. In the gallery, The Bean Eater by Caracci, is considered to be one of the most important works in Italian art history, preluding later styles which depicted common, everyday people in full color and detail.
The fresco of the main vault in the Colonna reception hall was painted in 1678 to depict the Battle of Lepanto; well, mostly Marcantonio Colonna’s role in the battle. This is one of the most grand entry halls I have ever seen in any palazzo, and to think that the family can still use it for special events today!
The pictures I took in the gallery only show some of the grandeur and artistic highlights. I would highly suggest a visit to the Galleria Colonna for a glimpse of how the elite Roman families lived and continue to live. The Galleria Colonna and the Galleria Doria Pamphilj are both exquisite examples of fantastic private collections of artwork, but I think that the interior of the Colonna’s palace is even more impressive and ornate than that of the Pamphilj.
For summer 2015, every Saturday at noon a guide provides a free tour in English, which we found quite educational about the gallery. I would highly suggest to visit at this time and take the tour to enhance your understanding of the collection. Without a guide there is very little free written information (although lots of pricey books in the bookstore).