When Wolfgang Helbig (1839–1915) had retired from the German Archaeological Institute, he rented Villa Lante with his family in 1887. Helbig was a versatile antiquarian who published groundbreaking works on a range of subjects such as Pompeian wall paintings, early Italian history, and Etruscan art. His catalogue of Roman archaeological museums is still the reference work on the subject. From Villa Lante, he provided archaeological expertise to several European and American museums, also helping them to acquire ancient sculptures and other artworks from Rome.
Helbig’s wife Nadine was born Nadezhda, a Russian princess. She was an outstanding pianist, a student of Clara Schumann and Franz Liszt. She began to host a cultural salon at Villa Lante, where scholars, writers, and artists from all over the world mingled with Roman aristocrats. Photographs of visitors to the Helbigs’ salon have survived, including those of Romain Rolland and Rainer Maria Rilke. Nadine was also well known as a philanthropist to the poor in Trastevere and the founder of a children’s hospital.
The Helbigs’ son Demetrio (1873–1954), a general in the Italian air force, owned Villa Lante from 1909. He was a chemist and a pioneer of Italian aviation, whose hot air balloon photographs of Rome in the early twentieth century made their mark on the history of photography.