The Villa Paolina beside the Porta Pia, c.1828.
Pauline Bonaparte had bought the Villa dagli Sciarpa in September 1816 and had immediately brought about important works, especially in the interior, renovating the decorations and furnishings. The result was noted by Lady Morgan, who travelling via Rome in 1820, described it thus: «parmi toutes les villas de la famille Borghèse, une seule est habitable, une seule offre la proprietà anglaise, l’elegance française et le goût italien, unis de la manière la plus heureuse: c’est la Villa Paolina Bonaparte Borghèse, ornée, meublée et reparée par la princesse».
In her will, left with the notary Chelli di Firenze on the 9th June 1825, Pauline Borghese left her Villa Paolina in Roma to her nephew and niece, Napoleon Luigi and Charlotte, "per uguali porzioni tra di loro". In 1825 the two young people were not yet married, but, as we know from the letters that Charlotte herself wrote from America, their marriage had already been decided in 1821. The couple stayed regularly in the Villa Paolina during the long period that they spent in Rome, even after the building was traded in with the Villa Paolina di Lucca, which Zenaide had inherited in 1827. After the death of her husband (1831) Charlotte preferred to buy a new residence in Rome, a small ‘cottage’, particularly as her disputes with her father-in-law, Carlo Luciano, had grown more acute.
The watercolour by Riveruzzi can be dated to around 1828: a letter from Zenaide to Charlotte of the 10th April 1829 allows us, indeed, to fix exactly the year in which it was done, in that it demonstrates that at the time of the letter Charlotte already had a lithograph of the painting. We do not know much about Giovanni Riveruzzi: his energetic collaboration with Napoleon Luigi and Charlotte, however, is documented.
Masterpieces of the hall
This room, dedicated to Pauline Bonaparte Borghese, concentrates particularly on her stay in Rome from 1816 to 1825 in the Villa Paolina. The villa, is located between between the Aurelian Walls, Via Piave and Via XX Settembre, and from 1950 the French Embassy to the Holy See was housed there. Pauline bought it in 1816, delighted by its situation and the elegance of its design. The watercolours on display show its elegance, which extended to the interior, which was decorated by Pauline herself in a purely French taste.