The Farnese Palace of the sixteenth century, dominates the homonymous square in Rome. It is the current embassy of France.
The original project of the palace is due to Antonio de Sangallo the Younger, commissioned by Cardinal Alejandro Farnesio (future Pope Paul III), who between 1495 and 1512 bought the Ferriz palace and other buildings that are in the area. The works, begun in 1514, were interrupted by the sack of Rome in 1527 and were retaken in 1541, after access to the papacy of Cardinal Farnese with changes to the original project by Sangallo himself.
After the death of Sangallo in 1546, work continued under the direction of Michelangelo: it seems to be due to the cornice that delimits the facade above, the balcony over the central portal and the finishing of a large part of the interior courtyard. The death of the Pope interrupts the works again in the year 1549.
Other works were carried out by Ranuccio Farnese, nephew of the Pope, between 1565 and his death in 1575, led by Vignola. Finally, Giacomo della Porta, called by the second Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, another nephew of the pope, owes the back with the facade towards the Tiber, completed in 1589 and which should have been linked with a bridge never made with the Villa Chigi (or «Farnesina»), acquired in 1580 on the opposite shore.
The palace is located in a square adorned with fountains that reused granite bathtubs from the Baths of Caracalla. The façade, in bricks with travertine edges (56 m on each side), is divided into three floors. The 13 windows on each floor have different decorations and those on the noble floor are crowned with alternately curvilinear and triangular pediments. A recent restoration has brought to light a decoration obtained with the use of yellow and red bricks in some part of the façade.
The interior is passed through a vestibule with vaults and three naves separated by Doric columns in red granite.
The internal decoration is particularly refined. The Chamber of the Cardinal was already painted in 1547 by Daniele da Volterra (upper fresco), while the Sala de los Fastos Farnesios was painted by Francesco Salviati between 1552 and 1556 and completed by Taddeo Zuccari from 1563 on. Aníbal Carracci the Camerino frescoes, made in 1595 and in the Gallery (20 m long and 6 m wide), with stuccos and mythological paintings made with his brother Agostino, between 1597 and 1601: in the center of the vault is the triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne. These frescoes were fundamental in the learning of Rubens and many other artists.
In the Hall of Hercules the statue of Hercules Farnesio was preserved, currently in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples along with numerous other sculptures of the Farnese collection. There was also the statue of Piety and Abundance, the work of Giacomo della Porta originally intended for the tomb of Paul III.
The «Farnesian gardens» (with the same name of the family on the Palatine Hill in Rome) were annexed to the villa, a splendid example of a Mannerist garden, made by means of a terracing system at the back of the villa. They were designed as a botanical garden for the Pope, with a quadrilateral planting system. The garden descends by the hill on which the construction is erected, and is connected to the house through bridges. At the entrance it has two pavilions, which mark a viewpoint towards the Magencio Basilica.
The works of the garden were begun in 1565 by Giacomo del Duca, using for the terracing the earth of excavation of the foundations of the Chiesa del Gesú in Rome, and they were concluded in 1630, under the direction of Girolamo Rainaldi.