At the Bottom of the Garden: The Caffeaus of Villa Albani

Jane Lomholt


This paper addresses the history and design of a pavilion at the Villa Albani in Rome. Built in 1764 by the architect Carlo Marchionni, possibly to a design by the client, the antiquarian Cardinal Alessandro Albani, this is a caffeaus (or coffee house, to offer a rough translation) featuring an eleven-bay semi-circular portico of Doric order. The taking of coffee after dinner had become a popular pastime and some, who could afford it, built special pavilions in their gardens for this purpose. Pope Benedict XIV, for instance, had a caffeaus built in his garden at the Quirinal Palace some twenty years earlier, where he could withdraw from the formalities of courtly life. For Cardinal Albani, the caffeaus also served as an extension to his Casino, where his vast collection of sculptures, busts and basins was displayed. With the aid of his librarian, the German scholar and writer Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Albani displayed his immense and unique collection of art and antiquities in a way that served to underline his own scholarship, wealth and position of affinity with Rome. The Villa and its splendours were not to be missed by the Grand Tourists. This paper will situate this exceptional pavilion in the wider context of his Villa, whose gardens and buildings today lie in various stages of disrepair and are closed to the public, except by private invitation.

pavilion, Villa Albani, Caffeaus, Carlo Marchionni, Winckelmann, art collection.

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Biographical note
Jane Lomholt studied architecture in Aarhus, Denmark, and Portsmouth, England. She obtained her PhD from the University of Sheffield, and recently retired from Lincoln School of Architecture, where she was Head of Humanities. With Soumyen Bandyopadhyay, Renée Tobe and Nicholas Temple, she co-edited The Humanities in Architecture Design, A Contemporary and Historical Perspective (Routledge, 2010), and with Paul Emmons and John Hendrix, The Cultural Role of Architecture, Contemporary and Historical Perspectives (Routledge, 2012), to which she contributed the essay “Villa Albani, Repository of Multiple Narratives.”