Small temple of the Faun

The garden is an important feature within the architectonic complex of the Arese Borromeo Palace. Built in the 17th century, it reached the same magnificence of the villas and mansions of the Roman countryside, with aspects that recalled the villas of Tivoli and Frascati identified by the scholar Gregorio Leti in terms of design and the construction of parks and gardens with the help of building artifacts inserted in green environments.

The natural and artificial components thus complete one another in a mutual relationship as parts designed for a sole environment, architectonically completed in a system that refers to ancient times and used to affirm not only economic but also cultural authority.
In the system that evokes the classical age, the numerous sculptures and architectures in the form of pavilions, temples and portals were erected with time within the compound or at the borders, according to a design and aimed to underline perspective views at the access points, the walkways and the parterre.
The relevant example of this survey is the Small Temple of the Faun, a noteworthy architecture that certifies the south-eastern tip of the garden’s majesty, perceivable even from outside the complex, since it is only partially hidden by the trees.
This 17th century building is set upon a Greek cross lobed plan that branches out at the four sides with little semi-cylindrical apses. Two of these open out to the garden with a graded bend on which two Etruscan architrave columns rise to close the upper portion.
Above, the cover of the internal dome ends in a tiborium and a lantern, on which, on a mixtilinear base the statue of Fame stands. Inside, two spiral staircases with steps of stone climb up to the highest level, dominating the area to offer a better view of the fresco decorations on the walls. These are evidently 17th century settings, that do not exclusively involve the vertical walls, but also the pilasters, the apses basement and vussoir of the arches. In the internal volume of the Temple of the Faun, within a balanced setting across mythology and nature, portrayals were inserted, depicting scenes of Parks, the zodiac, the months and the four seasons, in a divine celebration. Though somewhat imperfect the overall set of elements seem to be very unitary, in both the architectonic layout and the framing, and also for the themes dealt with, revealing its iconological and iconographic system. The Small Temple of the Faun in fact, constitutes the metaphor of a world that exalts nature but at the same time values the capacity of the gods and heroes to dominate it and contrast its destructive power. This is laid out through the organisation of time within a heavenly calendar that divides the year into seasons that serve to give a rhythmic cycle to farming activities. The decorations found in this place, moreover, repeat the theme of the existence of a “magical” world, in which scientific knowledge and human vicissitudes blend, a theme which Bartolomeo III Arese wanted to have in some of the halls of the mansion with ‘veiled’ allusions.
The decorative aspect of this small temple is seen also through two sculptures: the Allegory of “Fame,” arranged externally on a high marble base with classical spiral capitals; the god Pan, divinity of the wilderness and pastures, today placed inside the architectural structure, as an effigy, in the traditional manner, with a body that is half-man and half-goat.
Underground, is the shaft of a small cistern or ice-house that served to preserve foodstuffs for the refreshments of the court, consumed in the park, in the shade and under the trees, amid the fountain water play and pleasantries of the onlookers.