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View from a harbor

Bril Paul

(Antwerp 1554 - Rome 1626)

The canvas, painted around 1611 by Paul Bril for the Borghese family, shows a view of a sea port dominated by a large sailing ship with three flagpoles bearing several flags, two with the coat of arms of the Borghese family and the figures of the saints Peter and Paul. A third emblem, visible on the bow, instead shows the Immaculate Conception, while the white banner fluttering in the wind bears the papal insignia surmounted by the pontifical keys and triregnum, the triple crown. 

Surrounding it are groups of men whose slender figures are engulfed by the vast landscape that opens up behind them, distinguished by a leaden sky and a rocky mass on which a city with a bell tower and watchtower stands.

Object details

oil on canvas
107 x 151 cm

Salvator Rosa, 129.4 x 173.5 x 8 cm


 Rome, collection of Scipione Borghese, 1612 (Della Pergola 1959); Rome, Borghese Collection, 1650 (Manilli 1650); Inv. 1693, room XI, no. 90; Inv. 1790, room VIII, no. 7; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 35; purchased by the Italian State, 1902

  • 1966 Roma, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica
  • 1985 Roma, Palazzo Venezia
  • 1992 Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni
  • 1995 Bruxelles, Palais des Beaux-Arts
  • 1995 Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni
  • 2001 Roma, Palazzo Venezia
  • 2011 Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
  • 2015 Cassel, Musée départemental de Flandre


According to scholars, this painting was made by Paul Bril for Paul V and given by the pope to his nephew Scipione Borghese, who paid the gilder Annibale Durante eight scudi in 1612 for ‘a gilt frame for the view with a ship by Paul Bril eight by six palms’ (Della Pergola 1959, p. 149, no. 208). Listed in all the Borghese inventories (Della Pergola 1959), Giovanni Piancastelli’s object descriptions (1891) and Adolfo Venturi’s Catalogo, the seascape is mentioned by, among others, Scipione Francucci (1613; for a differing opinion, see Herrmann Fiore 1999) and Iacomo Manilli, who described it in 1650 as ‘the large painting above the table of a port with lots of boats’.

Entirely absent from the correspondence between Cardinal Federico Borromeo and Paul Bril (who painted a variant for the powerful prelate between 1610 and 1611 that was ‘similar to the one for M. Crescenti or even finer’ [Vaes 1931]), Paola della Pergola (1959) dated the work to after 1611,  a date moved back by Didier Bodart (1970, p. 230) to 1610 and fixed by Luigi Salerno (1977) to 1610-1611. In 2006, finding the painting to be more mature and carefully considered than the ones made for Cardinal Borromeo (Milan, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana) and Monsignor Crescenzi (Brussels, Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts), Francesca Cappelletti confirmed the date of 1611 (Cappelletti 2006; idem, 2011), the year in which the painter came into contact with Scipione Borghese for the decoration of the Casino di Montecavallo.

The painting depicts a port with a large sailboat with three masts flying flags, two of which bear the Borghese coat of arms and the figures of Saints Peter and Paul. A third flag, at the bow, instead depicts the Immaculate Conception, while the fluttering white flag is decorated with the papal insignia topped by the papal keys and triple crown. All around are groups of men, the slender figures of which are dwarfed by the vast landscape that opens up behind them, marked by a cloudy sky and a rocky mass topped by a city with a bell tower and a watchtower.

This was a very popular subject and the artist painted multiple versions of it: one variant was made for Cardinal Carlo de’ Medici (Florence, Museo degli Uffizi); another was reported by Giulio Mancini in 1615 (Mancini c. 1615 [ed. 1956-1957]); another, attributed to Bril and datable to 1621, is mentioned in the inventory of Scipione Borghese (Corradini 1998, p. 450).

A drawing of this seascape was made in 1638 by Claude Lorrain (Liber Veritatis fol. 30, London, British Museum), who, arriving in Rome in 1613, took an interest in the landscapes by Bril, Agostino Tassi and Adam Elsheimer.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Mancini, Considerazioni sulla pittura, ed. critica a cura di A. Marucchi, L. Salerno, Roma 1956-1957;
  • S. Francucci, La Galleria dell’Illustrissimo e Reverendissimo Signor Scipione Cardinale Borghese cantata in versi [1613], Arezzo 1647, St. 128-132;
  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 99;
  • E. e C. Platner, Beschreibung der Stadt Rom, III, Stuttgart-Tübingen 1830-1842, p. 295;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 389;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 172;
  • A. von Würzbach, Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon, Wien-Leipzig 1906, p. 185;
  • A. Mayer, Das Leben und die Werke der Brüder Matthäeus und Paul Brill, Leipzig 1910, p. 76;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 211;
  • M. Vaes, “Prospettiva di mare” de Paul Bril au Musée de l’Ambrosienne à Milan, in Mélanges Hulin de Loo, Bruxelles-Paris 1931, pp. 308-310;
  • L. van Puyvelde, La Peinture Flamande à Rome, Bruxelles 1950, p. 76;
  • P. della Pergola, Itinerario della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1951, p. 50;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 149-150;
  • M. Roethlisberger, Les fresques del Lorrain, in “Paragone”, CIV, 1959, p. 46;
  • E. Knab, Die Anfänge des Claude Lorrain, in “Jahrbuch die Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien”, LVI, 1960, pp. 75-140;
  • G.T. Faggin, Per Paolo Brill, in “Paragone Arte”, CLXXXV, 1965, p. 15;
  • Dipinti fiamminghi di collezioni romane, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, 1966), Roma 1966, p. 15;
  • D. Bodart, Les peintres des Pays-Bas méridionaux et de la principauté de Liège à Rome au XVIIème siècle, Bruxelles-Roma 1970, p. 74;
  • Rubens e la pittura fiamminga del ‘600 nelle collezioni pubbliche fiorentine, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Palazzo Pitti, 1977), a cura di D. Bodart, Firenze 1977, p. 74;
  • L. Salerno, Pittura di Paesaggio del Seicento a Roma, Roma 1977, pp. 13-14;
  • M. Chiarini, Il paesaggio a Roma fra Sei e Settecento, in "Antologia di belle arti", III, 1979, pp. 144-145;
  • S. Bedoni, Jan Brueghel in Italia e il collezionismo del Seicento, Firenze 1983, pp. 125-126;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, in Invisibilia. Rivedere i capolavori. Vedere i progetti, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 1992), a cura di M. E. Tittoni, S. Guarino, Roma 1992, p. 29;
  • L. Pijl, scheda in Fiamminghi a Roma 1508-1608. Artistes des Pays-Bas et de la Principauté de Liège à Rome à la Renaissance, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 1995; Bruxelles, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 1995), Gand 1995, pp. 104-106, n. 33;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Guida alla Galleria Borghese, Roma 1997, p. 64;
  • S. Corradini, Un antico inventario della quadreria del Cardinal Borghese, in Bernini scultore: la nascita del barocco in Casa Borghese. catalogo della mostra (Roma Galleria Borghese, 1998), a cura di A. Coliva e S. Schütze, Roma 1998, p. 450;
  • K. Hermann Fiore, Osservazioni sulle Marina di Paul Bril, in "Bollettino d’arte", C, 1999, pp. 191-200;
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 214;
  • F. Cappelletti, scheda in Il genio di Roma, 1592-1623 (catalogo della mostra, Londra, Royal Academy of Arts, 2001; Roma, Palazzo Venezia, 2001) a cura di B.L. Brown, Roma 2001, p. 214, n. 76;
  • C. Hendriks, Northern landscapes on Roman walls: the frescoes of Matthijs and Paul Bril, Firenze 2003, p. 64;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, scheda in Art energy. L’energia nella storia dell’arte dall’antichità classica al XX secolo, a cura di C. Biasini Selvaggi, Milano 2004, p. 72;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 117;
  • F. Cappelletti, Paul Bril e la pittura di paesaggio a Roma 1580-1630, Roma 2006, p. 273, n. 104;
  • F. Cappelletti, Le paysage nordique à Rome dans la première décennie du XVIIe siècle: de Bril à Van Swanevelt et aux peintres italiens, in Nature et idéal 2011, p. 152.