By Costanza Beltrami

Italian architect Antonio Asprucci was born on 20 May 1723 in Rome. After training with his father and with Nicola Salvi, he worked independently on the restoration of the monastery of S Francesca Romana and the construction of a monastic building for S Stefano in Cacco, both in Rome. He was soon nominated architect to Francis, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and later to the powerful nobleman Marcantonio IV Borghese.

Working for the Borghese family, Asprucci transformed the park and outbuildings of Villa Borghese into a Neo-classical micro-cosm, an elegant ‘display-case’ for the Borghese’s extremely rich art collection. Directing leading contemporary artists such as painters Mariano Rossi and Gavin Hamilton, Asprucci assembled a decorative program intended to complement the artworks displayed in each room: for example, hieroglyphic panels and red and grey marble cladding were used for the Villa’s Egyptian Room. The gardens transformed with the construction of new Neo-classical structures, such as a circular Temple of Diana, within a grid pattern of avenues. Yet they also included the first example of the ‘English’ landscape garden in Rome. Overall, this was the most important decorative campaign in late 18th century Rome.

Afterwards, Asprucci remodeled the seat of the Accademia di San Luca, of which he became president (1790–92), and designed the high altar of the church of San Salvatore in Lauro (1792). Before his death in 1808, he also served as a government official, the Sotto Maestro delle Strade (Under-supervisor of Roadworks) for the Trevi area (1795) and the Campo Marzio region (1796).

Reference: Christine Challingsworth, “Asprucci, Antonio.” Grove Art Online. Oxford University Press,

The Tempietto di Esculapio at Villa Borghese, Rome.

William Miller after Samuel Prout, engraving of the Villa Borghese, Rome, published in The Landscape Annual, 1831.

William Henry Goodyear, vestibule, Villa Borghese, Rome. New York: Brooklyn Museum, Goodyear Archival Collection, cat. no. S03_06_01_023 image 2932.

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