Small room also known as “Covetta (Little Owl) Room”

Characterised by an irregular trapezoidal floor plan, the walls of this room have been entirely lined with frescoes depicting the woods, repeating the iconographs and themes found in the adjacent rooms.

Here the artist confers an absolute predominance to nature according to the typically baroque taste of the 17th-century “villas of delights” in which the landscape theme definitively abandon the sacred and historiographic areas to take on new and free allegorical topics. The modern style took ground especially in Rome at the start of the mid-17th century when the artists started to propose the theme of nature, that was no longer bound to classic strictness and which upon a careful and realistic analysis of the Flemish, seemed to have been achieved “on the spur of the moment” and rapidly and easily invented. It is therefore no surprise that Bartolomeo Arese chose to assign these paintings to the Milanese painter, Giovanni Ghisolfi (1623-1683), who trained precisely in the capital in the workshop of Salvator Rosa, inventor of a type of very original landscapes with an elevated sense of expressionism that was a forerunner of romanticism.
According to an inventory at the end of the 17th century, the so-called “Covetta (Little Owl) Room” was used as both a bedroom and a little music room, without specifying its original usage that was probably as a naturalistic “Wunderkammer.” This seems to have been confirmed by the presence in this wing on the first floor, of a succession of rooms dedicated to natural sciences and astronomy, and which acted as pre-chambers leading to the observatory tower. This function would also explain the insistent portrayal of animal species, particularly, multicoloured birds with their various allegorical symbols. Among these, besides the owl from which the name of the room derives, were also the winding heron, reinterpreted by critiques as a variation of the stem of the Borromeo family, and a symbol of meekness and loyalty, and the monkey, often associated to evil and sin.
At the lower end of the eastern wall, the falling of a piece of plaster brought to light a piece of painting completely filled by a scene depicting young dame seated with a white greyhound. Critiques clashed on the interpretation of this. Some in fact, proposed that it refers explicitly to the commission of the father of Bartolomeo III Arese, Giulio I, and that the work is absolutely prior to the woods period, while others trace it to a pictorial work subsequent to the works of Ghisolfi, produced on purpose in an archaic style, and showing the young woman with a typically 17th-century hairdo.