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The Spada Gallery: an unusual artistic discovery in Rome

Once a year, on the blog, I talk about something other than marketing and market research. My interest in art led me to talk about painting in 2019 (Carlo Crivelli) and 2020 (Lorenzo Lotto). This year I will speak of a hidden architectural wonder that I had the chance to (re)see in Rome. The Spada Gallery is an architectural masterpiece by Francesco Borromini that uses the illusion of forced perspective. The little surprise is that I found in Rome another example of this forced perspective. Follow me!

Le palais Spada et la galerie Spada

Palazzo Spada is the Italian Council of State headquarters, a beautiful 16th-century palace that houses 3 beautiful rooms of ancient paintings. One of the highlights is the Portrait of Cardinal Bernardino Spada by Guido Reni (1631).

The palace was bought in the 17th century by Cardinal Spada. The latter requested the famous architect Francesco Borromini to make some changes. Borromini built what is commonly known as the “Spada Gallery” (see below).

galerie spada palazzo spada

It is a construction located in one of the courtyards of the building, and that takes advantage of the “forced perspective.” This “gallery” gives the impression that it is 30 meters long, but it is only 8.8 meters long in reality. To realize the “visual trickery,” watch this video realized using the kind assistance of one of the guards.

Another example of forced perspective in Rome

If the Spada gallery is undoubtedly the most famous example of forced perspective (with the Potemkin staircase in Odessa), other more confidential achievements are based on the same principle.

I had the pleasant surprise to discover the Avila Chapel during my visit to the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. The Chapel of Avila is the 5th in the left nave of the church and was realized using an unknown artist: Antonio Gherardi (1644-1702). Gherardi is best known as a painter (baroque) and as a student of Peter of Cortona.

Avila chapen forced perspective by Gherardi in Santa-Maria-in-Trastevere

La chapelle d’Avila est plus connue pour sa coupole que pour son autel. Ce dernier, inspiré sans aucun doute du travail de Borromini au Palazzo Spada, est composé de 3 colonnes et d’un tableau de petite taille forçant l’impression de perspective. Elle a été réalisée en 1686 par Gherardi pour Pietro Paolo Avila.

D’un point de vue architectural on a là quelque chose d’assez unique. Le tombeau est enchâssé directement dans le monument. On ne peut donc pas vraiment parler d’un autel. Et je crois me souvenir que la peinture que vous voyez au fond ne mesure que 80 cm.

Si vous passez par Rome, pensez donc à visiter ces 2 lieux et à les visiter de manière différente en repensant à moi.

Avila chapen forced perspective by Gherardi in Santa-Maria-in-Trastevere


Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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