The Farnese were patrons and great collectors and between the XVI and XVIII centuries accumulated one of the most important artistic heritages of the time.
Between Parma and Rome the collection consisted of about 3000 works between paintings, artistic objects and antiquities. Amongst the works conserved in the National Gallery, the portraits, in particular that of Pope Paul III painted by Sebastiano del Piombo, constitute evidence for the desire to auto celebrate the family and were to become the nucleus of the future collection.
Initially in Parma the interest of the Farnese was concentrated on paintings from the local school such as “la Zingarella” by Correggio, “la Lucrezia” by Parmigianino an “Parma embraces Alessandro Farnese” by Bedoli. To these were then added works of art sequestered from local feudal families. Successively, thanks to a network of political relations and marriage alliances, the collection grew to contain works from all over Europe.
At the end of the XVII century, Ranuccio II, who is here celebrated by two busts by Bernini, created the “Ducal Gallery”, transferring to Parma a large part of the patrimony held in Roome and thus began the Farnese museum with its definitive distinction between furnishings and works of art in the court residences. This choice rendered the Duchy one of the most important European cultural and collection centres.
In 1731 the last Farnese Duke, Antonio, died without heirs and his successor, Carlo of Bourbon, remained in Parma for only 4 years. Having been crowned King of the Two Sicilies, he removed almost the entire collection from Parma to Naples, dramatically denuding all residential palaces.