Founded on the initiative of Pope Gregory XVI in 1839, the Gregorian Egyptian Museum occupies nine rooms, with a broad hemicycle that opens onto the terrace of the “Niche of the Pinecone”, in which various sculptures are located.
The rooms, taken from the former apartment and retreat of Pius IV, in the Palace of the Belvedere of Innocent VIII, were originally curated by the Barnabite Father Luigi Ungarelli, an eminent Egyptologist of the age and disciple of Ippolito Rosellini. Various architectural elements and wall decorations of exotic inspiration remain of this first layout, intended to evoke the environs of the Nile.
The collection is particularly interesting on account of its relationship with the territory, rich in material from Roman Egypt and from Egyptian-influenced Rome. Indeed, many monuments from the most ancient nucleus were brought to Rome at the behest of the emperor in order to embellish buildings, shrines and villas, such as the statuary group of the Gardens of Sallust (Horti Sallustiani), now displayed in the Hemicycle. There are also many Egyptian works of Roman production, which offer evidence of an important moment in the history of pharaonic culture, as in the case of the items from the splendid setting of Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli.
The final three rooms of the itinerary are dedicated to artefacts from the Ancient Near East, which came to enrich the collection in the 1970s.