The history of Palazzo Barberini as a national museum, open regularly to the public, began in 1953 when the palazzo became the second venue of the National Gallery of Antique Art, along with Palazzo Corsini, where the Gallery had first opened in 1895.
Palazzo Barberini the display follows the development of the principal Italian schools of painting from the 1200s to the 1700s. Unlike the historical display in the Galleria Corsini, at Palazzo Barberini the museum installation may be supplemented by new acquisitions or reorganized according to different criteria.
The 1500s and 1600s are the centuries best represented at the Barberini, with works by Raphael, Piero di Cosimo, Bronzino, Hans Holbein, Lorenzo Lotto, Tintoretto, and so to Caravaggio and his followers. Dating from the 1600s are many extraordinary works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Guido Reni, Guercino, Nicolas Poussin, and Pietro da Cortona.
The 18th century portion of the collection features important works by Maratti, Batoni, Canaletto, Subleyras, Mengs and van Wittel, in addition to the paintings donated by the Duke of Cervinara, – a group of exquisite Fragonards and Bouchers – and the Lemme donation, containing rare sketches by Corvi and Ghezzi.