I met these two little darlings at the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome. Actually, they appear in Breughel’s “Allegory of the Earth”. It was painted in 1618 and, since Guinea Pigs come from South America, I was slightly surprised to see them in such an early painting. However, I looked it up and apparently (well according to Wikipedia!) Queen Elizabeth I had a pet Guinea Pig so these two are early immigrants. I like to think they might have been the Breughel family pets. My own Guinea Pigs, Prudence and Isabella, were unimpressed when I told them but they’re hard to please
The Galleria Doria Pamphilj is a fantastic gallery I visited for the first time recently. It’s housed in a Palazzo right on the Via del Corso in Rome and is a perfect antidote to the madness of Rome’s main shopping street. Step inside and the first thing you see is a beautiful courtyard garden which reminds you why these big houses face inwards away from the dirt and noise of the street and makes you want one of the apartments which still house smart Romans today.
The Palazzo is primarily an Art Gallery these days with an amazing private collection which includes works by Caravaggio, Titian and the aforementioned Breughel as well as sculpture, furniture and even family nick-nacks! The Doria Pamhilj family still exist and own the collection (and have issues to face over its future thanks to Italian law http://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/6348571/Who-will-inherit-the-Doria-Pamphilj-familys-legacy.html ) and still live in the Palazzo at least some of the time. The paintings are numbered rather than labelled so do buy the £1 guide unless you’re an Art History expert. Galleria Doria Pamphilj may not be the slickest or the best interpreted gallery in Europe but it’s got buckets of charm and really is, to use a horrible cliché, a hidden gem.