Originally part of the sectors of Byzantine, Medieval, and XV-XVI century art, the Department was established in 2008 following the new Regulation of the Vatican Museums, concentrating its activity on the works of art of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, adding the entire activity of the great Venetian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822). The protection and care of the Department extends, therefore, to the works of art of the Vatican Museums and Gardens, and the chronologically relevant areas of the palace and museum spaces. The Department is directly occupied with the care and enhancement of the collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century paintings. 

The main collection, initiated around 1790 by Pope Pius VI, includes the masterpieces of the Baroque period with the works of major artists of the age, such as Caravaggio, Nicolas Poussin, Guido Reni, Andrea Sacchi, Guercino, and Valentin de Boulogne, displayed in the magnificent octagonal space of Room XII of the Pinacoteca, designed by the architect Luca Beltrami in 1932 as one of the epicentres of the collection. The collection also includes the paintings of the great protagonists of late seventeenth and eighteenth century classicism, precious examples of both the great Roman religious tradition and the age of Enlightenment and the Grand Tour.

The Department’s activity involves the daily management of the collection through the study and cataloguing of the works, the restoration and organization of museum spaces with didactic itineraries, and temporary and permanent exhibitions and installations; in tandem with this, the Department carries out scientific research in support of restoration and studies aimed at deepening knowledge of the Vatican’s patrimony. These activities are accompanied by the necessary disclosure of results through participation in conferences, publications and the organization of conferences and study days. The centrality that Vatican art has held for centuries also implies fruitful exchanges of information with the scientific community, often a starting point for transversal collaborations with the most diverse national and international institutions.