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A Battle

Rosa Salvatore

(Arenella 1615 - Rome 1673)

Battle was a theme that Salvator Rosa cherished and a favourite painting subject from his beginnings in the workshops of Jusepe de Ribera and Aniello Falcone, to whose work some stylistic analogies can be established. In fact, the painter became famous for these compositions, almost always structured with a dramatic apex in the centre, a sort of pivot around which the entire scene is set out; and menacing columns of dust rising in the midst of the fray.

Object details

Metà del secolo XVII
oil on canvas
cm 72 x 132,5

Salvator Rosa, 102 x 157.5 x 8 cm


Rome, Bartolomeo Cavaceppi Collection, ante 1787 (Della Pergola 1955); Rome, Marcantonio Borghese Collection, 1787; Inv. 1790, room II, no. 39; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 7; purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

  • 1985 Roma, Palazzo Venezia.


This painting entered the Borghese Collection in 1787, when Bartolomeo Cavaceppi asked Marcantonio Borghese for a monthly stipend of fifty scudi. In fact, the acclaimed sculptor handed over to the Prince as many as eight works, among which A Battle, listed in the transfer document divulged by Paola della Pergola (1955, p. 154, no. 27) as a painting “by Borgognone.” This attribution to Courtois was preserved in the 1790 inventory, as well as in the fideicommissum listing (1833), and was considered valid until, in 1893, Adolfo Venturi decided to attribute this canvas to Salvator Rosa. His opinion was embraced by all critics (Longhi 1928; De Rinaldis 1939), as well as by Paola della Pergola, who in 1955 ascribed the work to the Neapolitan painter in the catalogue of the Borghese Gallery’s paintings.

In the foreground of this Battle, which isn’t mentioned either by Luigi Salerno (1966) or by Caterina Volpi (2014), we see a wounded soldier in the act of being thrown by his white horse, while the army advances, urged on by the sound of the bugle. In this scene, Rosa adopts a tried-and-tested structure, drawing the viewer’s attention to certain isolated figures – such as the soldier sounding the bugle or the group of men on horseback to the far right – or to especially dramatic moments full of pathos – in this case the soldier wounded to death – while around them the war rages on amidst columns of smoke.   

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 416; 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 172; 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 211; 
  • A. De Rinaldis, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1939, p. 42; 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 89, n. 159; 
  • L. Salerno, Salvator Rosa, Firenze 1966 (non incluso); 
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, in Paesaggio con figura, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Palazzo Venezia, 1985), a cura di K. Herrmann Fiore, C. Tempesta, Roma 1985, p. 44;
  • 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. 116.
  • C. Volpi, Salvator Rosa "pittore famoso" (1615-1673), Roma 2014 (non incluso).