The current building in which the Museum Barracco is housed is an elegant little renaissance palace which Thomas Le Roy, a prelate of Breton origin, built as his private residence in 1523. Le Roy, Regis in Latin, had come to Rome following the emperor Charles VII, and had acquired esteem with the Roman Curia for having collaborated on the stipulation of the agreement of 1516 between Pope Leone X and the Emperor Francis I. In recognition of his diplomatic activities, he was granted the right to reproduce in his coat of arms the symbol of the land of France, “the lily”, which we see sculpted on the pavements of the building, alternating with the ermine, the symbol of his land. From this decorative element comes the name of the “Piccola Farnesina ai Baullari”, in harmony with the nearby Palazzo Farnese and referring also to the area in which it was built, known as the Street of the Trunk Makers.
The building is traditionally attributed to Antonio da Sangallo, due to a drawing conserved in the Uffizi in Florence, although there is no other documentation to confirm this idea
Le Roy never lived in the building and his heirs soon sold it to others.
Notable among the nobles families who owned the property, are the Silvestri, an Abruzzi family, who emphasised their occupation of the building with the creation, in the early years in the 1700s, of frescos which are still present today in the first floor loggia. A putto holds in its hand a scorpion, the heraldic symbol of the Silvestri, in the side lunettes are visible the Bees of the Barberini family to whom the Silvestri were related.
The building became the property of Conte Linotte in the first half of the Nineteenth Century, and was subsequently sold to the Lawyer Iorio. In 1885 the Municipality acquired it from his heirs when they had to intervene in the area as part of the new regulatory plan.
Rome had only been the capital of Italy for a short time and it was necessary to create the route of the Corso Vittorio. To achieve this the Tomarozzi houses, adjacent to the Farnesina, were destroyed, and the latter, acquired by the Municipality, became a national monument.
The current lay out of the building is a result of the restoration project by the Architect Guj, which restored the original roofing, created a second entrance from Piazza dei Baullari, and rendered the Corso Vittorio facade in the image of the sixteenth century prospect of the Vicolo dell’Aquila.
During the work done to create the flight of stairs onto Piazza dei Baullari a number of architectural elements, remains of a late-Roman building, came to light.
The building had been used as the offices of numerous institutions, but it was only in 1948 that it was first used as a museum space, when the archaeological collection, which Baron Giovanni Barracco had donated to the City of Rome long ago in 1904, was established there. The precious collection of sculpture, shut up in packing cases in the storerooms of the Capitoline Museums during the Second World War, had not had a location ever since the elegant building in which it had been collected, was destroyed in 1938 due to planning regulations.