The Festoons of the Cupid and Psyche Loggia in the Villa Farnesina
An Interactive Database

Compiled by
Anna Whipkey and Jules Janick

Brief History of the Building and the Ceiling

The villa of Agostino Chigi (1466-1520) is located on the west bank of the Tiber in an area of Rome known as the "rione Trastevere" where it is now known as the Villa Farnesina based on its sale to Cardinal Alessandro Farnese in 1577. The original villa was constructed between 1505 and 1509. Born in Siena, Chigi became fabulously wealthy as financier to popes and kings. His luxurious villa built to display his wealth and prestige was decorated under the guidance of Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) and his coworkers (Giulio Romano, Francesco Penni, and Raffaellin Del Colle). The decorations on the ceiling of the loggia (now enclosed) and referred to as the Loggia of Psyche are based on the heavenly adventures of Cupid and Psyche from the Metamorphoses (Golden Ass) of Apuleius, 2nd century CE. Ten illustrated episodes of the tale are located in spandrels surrounded by festoons of fruits, vegetables, and flowers, painted by Giovanni Martini da Udine (1487-1564) that include over 160 species of plants, all remarkably preserved. Based on a deprecating letter from Leonardo Sellaio to Michelangelo, Raphael's rival, dated January 1, 1518 (Florentine calendar) describing the work, it seems plausible that the work was completed by 1517. The work is important in the history of art since New World species such as maize (Zea mays), New World cucurbits (C. maxima), and perhaps bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) are painted in Europe for the first time. Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) had been proposed but these images are undoubtedly Inula helenium, a medicinal composite that is spontaneous in European mountain environments.

Navigating the Festoons

Each spandrel and serverie of the Loggia can be examined individually by clicking on text links or image map in the Map of Loggia. You can view enlarged images of plants by clicking on the plants in the festoons. The List of Species is grouped by Kingdom, Phylum, and Family according to Caneva (1992). Click on species to view all images of that species. You can also click on text links under each image to view the festoon where it appears.


Gerlini, E. 2000. Villa Farnesinia alla Lungara. Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato Libreria dello Stato, Rome. p. 60.

Caneva, G. 1992. Il Mondo di Cerere nella Loggia di Psiche. Fratelli Palombi Editori, Rome.

Cherubini, G. 1992. Un’agricoltura più ricca dopo la scoperta dell’America. p. 89–98. In: L. Capocaccia Orsini, G. Doria, and G. Doria (eds.), 1492–1992 Animali e Piante dalle Americhe all’Europa. Sagep Editrice, Rome.

Janick, J. and G. Caneva. 2005. The first images of maize in Europe. Maydica (in press).

Frommel CL. 2003. The Villa Farnesina in Rome. Franco Cosimo Panini, Modena.


Photos were obtained from Frommel (2003).
Identification of species are based on analysis from Caneva (1992).

Caneva G. 1992. Il Mondo di Cerere nella Loggia di Psiche. Fratelli Palombi, Rome.

Frommel CL. 2003. The Villa Farnesina in Rome. Franco Cosimo Panini, Modena.

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