The collection of works of the Pontificia Insigne Accademia di Belle Arti e Lettere dei Virtuosi al Pantheon embodies a series of historical and cultural particularities that make it unique in terms of formation and content. It is a set of documents, small and large masterpieces in the History of Art, little known to the general public; but, at the same time, singular in their intrinsic value and in the assistance they can provide for a knowledge of Roman and national historico-artistic events over a vast period of time.
At present, the works are distributed over two sites. The central and more ample portion, which includes paintings and sculptures from the 16th to the 20th century, 19th-20th century drawings and furnishings, is held in the Pantheon. The more recent donations, however, are kept in Via della Conciliazione, where the library and archive are also located.
The originality of the collection lies in its constitution, motivated by spiritual idealism since 1543. Its origin and development are, however, due to the generosity of the artists of the Congregazione di San Giuseppe (former title of the Academy), who over the centuries have donated their works to the institution.
The freedom of each member of the Congregation to donate or create works for the Academy, without commissioning or hierarchical decision, has led to a rather heterogeneous and composite assortment of artistic works. In particular, the range of subjects created between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries mainly covers portraits, or inspirations from classical mythology, the history of the Catholic Church and the Holy Scriptures. The theme of St. Joseph, specifically, strongly attracted numerous artists. Worth mentioning among them it is the painting by Giovanni Baglione, NativitÓ di Ges¨ con San Giuseppe, the work of Giacinto Brandi, Il Sogno di San Giuseppe, and a San Giuseppe con Ges¨ adolescente by Domenico Ambrosini. To these may be added various landscapes, such as the Vallata Messicana by Carlo De Paris, a pupil of Luigi Agricola and Gaspare Landi; or the Veduta del Tevere by Pio Grande.
The most substantial nucleus of the collection, in terms also of quality, consists of the group of portraits and self-portraits from the 19th-20th century. These include both paintings and busts in marble and plaster, which are often likenesses of the artists themselves or important figures of the time. Noteworthy among them is the work of the sculptor Oskar Sosnowski, to whom we owe the stone disc with the coat of arms and the artistic emblems of the Virtuosi, set above the entrance door that leads to the attic under the portico of the Pantheon.
From the 1830s important changes were made. With the inauguration of the training for young artists, through competitions, there was a consistent increase not only of works in the collection but also of projects, drawings and designs entered for competitions. The development in content and activities was determinant in elevating the Congregazione di San Giuseppe to the rank of Academy (1928).