Together with the Egyptian Room, the Room of Helen and Paris was the one that enjoyed the greatest success at the time of the decoration of the building in the eighteenth century, thanks to the decoration of the walls and the ornaments of the furniture, which constituted one of the most precocious Roman examples of the reworking of Antiquity.
The room attained its greatest fame when, from 1838 to 1881, the statue of Paolina Bonaparte (1780-1825) as Venus Victrix was on display there. The masterpiece by Canova became the ideal finishing touch to what was already one of the most famous rooms because of its exquisite Neoclassical style.
The Scottish painter and antiquary Gavin Hamilton (1723-1798) executed the decoration of the ceiling, prompted by the Iliad, between 1782 and 1784. In the centre is the Death of Paris among satyrs and nymphs, on the sides the Judgment of Paris, Paris taking music lessons from Cupid, and Venus offering Helen to Paris, which – with the Abduction of Helen and the Death of Achilles – was replaced by those by Vincenzo Camuccini and Giovanni Piancastelli. (The two originals moved in 1891 to the Castello Borghese in Pratica di Mare are now in the Museo di Roma.) The decorations on the ceiling were executed by Giovan Battista Marchetti (1730-1800).
The sculptural decoration of the room is the work of Agostino Penna (1728-1800) and Vincenzo Pacetti (1746-1820). The latter executed the giallo antico fireplace with decorations in bronze by Antonio de Rossi (1782) and the four reliefs over the doors, also in giallo antico, depicting the gods involved in the Trojan War (Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and Apollo).
Several of the paintings on display – such as the Hunt of Diana and the Sibyl by Domenichino (1581-1641) and the Aeneas Fleeing Troy and the St. Jerome by Federico Barocci (1535-1612) – are very well known. Also noteworthy are two paintings by Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647), Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife and Norandino and Lucina in the Ogre’s Den.
In the middle of the room is the Young Brunette with Boy and Dog, a statue in bianco and nero antico marble and semi-precious stones, formerly thought to be by Nicolas Cordier (1567-1612) and now attributed to the workshop of Giovan Battista della Porta.