Farnese Nymphaeum

World Monuments Watch
Rome, Italy

2008 World Monuments Watch

Following in the footsteps of Roman emperors, many wealthy and powerful families of sixteenth-century Rome bought property on the Palatine Hill, where they built elaborate gardens filled with sculpture and fountains. Although most of the Renaissance monuments of the Palatine Hill have been demolished over the centuries or removed during archaeological excavations of the area, some elements from this period remain. Best preserved among them is the so-called Rain Nymphaeum (known as the Farnese Nymphaeum after its original owner, Cardinal Farnese). Built at the center of the monumental ramp leading up to the Palatine from the Forum, the Nymphaeum is a vaulted structure decorated with wall paintings and a grotto-style fountain made of stone and stucco. The fountain is surrounded by a series of niches that once contained ancient busts, now kept in a repository of the Superintendency of Rome. One of the Nymphaeum's terrace walls partially collapsed due to heavy rains in November 2005. The Nymphaeum is subject to uncontrolled water infiltration through its terrace and side walls; the roots of two large pine trees nearby are also damaging the structure. The wall paintings in the Nymphaeum are currently obscured by a buildup of salts, but a recent survey revealed that the paintings remain largely intact beneath the film, and could be saved. It is hoped that inclusion of the Farnese Nymphaeum on the Watch List will call attention to the vulnerability of both Renaissance and ancient structures in the area, and encourage support for their protection.

Last updated:
July 2008

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