The Roman aristocracy during the papal rule had always preferred to invest in real estate properties rather than in farming or manufacturing. For this reason the families of the papal nobility greatly gained from Rome becoming the capital of Italy. Colonna, Boncompagni Ludovisi, Borghese, Barberini, Pamphilj, Odescalchi, Torlonia all had large possessions in Rome and in the countryside, the value of which greatly increased.

Maffeo Sciarra Colonna owned the land behind his family palace on Via del Corso and he personally took care of its development. He thought that its central location was appropriate for a shopping arcade. From 1882, all of the 17th century buildings that lie between Via del Corso, Via Minghetti and Via delle Vergini underwent major restructuring. The work was carried out by Giulio De Angelis, the most individual and active of the Rome architects of the time, on behalf of Prince Maffeo Sciarra. One of the features of the complex is Galleria Sciarra, an arcade located in the courtyard that joins Via Minghetti with the small Piazza dell’ Oratorio.

inside view of the Gallery Sciarra in Rome. The gallery takes its name from historic Palace Sciarra

The arcade is an iron and glass structure accessed from corridors punctuated by cast iron columns. The central part was painted between 1885 and 1888 by artist Giuseppe Cellini using the encaustic painting technique which involves pigments mixed with Punic wax. The decoration was elevated by an iconographic project designed by literary critic Giulio Salvadori, expressed with Art Nouveau motifs combined with Etruscan and Ancient Roman echoes. The dominant theme is the celebration of women as angels of the hearth, wife and mother in the bourgeois vision of post-Italian unification society. In the top part appear Modesty, Sobriety, Strength, Humility, Prudence and Patience while on the opposite side are Benign, Lady, Lovable, Faithful and Merciful.