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Adoration of the Kings

Mazzola Ludovico called Mazzolino

(Ferrara c. 1480 - 1528-30)

In the background of this scene, in which the three Kings are offering the Christ Child their gifts, there is a building with a wood and straw roof from which a man is looking out to contemplate the event. The painting is chronologically dated to the painter’s mature period, in about 1522.

Object details

c. 1522
oil on panel
40 x 30 cm

Rome, Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, 1603, no. 52; Medola, Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandi, 1612, no. 2; Rome, Olimpia Aldobrandini the younger, 1682, no. 324; Inv. fidecommissario 1833, p. 6 no. 2. Purchased by the Italian state, 1902

  • 2009, Illegio, Casa delle Esposizioni
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903-1905, Luigi Bartolucci
  • 1937, Carlo Matteucci
  • 1957, Gilda Diotallevi
  • 1963, Alvaro Esposti
  • 2008, Vega Santodonato e Patrizia Micheletti (Laboratorio exSBAS presso Palazzo Barberini)
  • 2008, Maria Francesca Tizzani e Laura Ferretti
  • 2019, Koinè
  • 2020, Measure 3D di Danilo Salzano (indagini diagnostiche)
  • 2020, Erredicci (indagini diagnostiche)
  • 2021, IFAC (CNR Firenze) (indagini diagnostiche)
  • 2021, Arsmensurae di Stefano Ridolfi (indagini diagnostiche)


This scene of the Adoration of the Kings is played out against an architectural background of ruins from which an old man dressed in red can be seen looking out; above him, we can glimpse a garret and two courting doves. The Christ Child, held in the Virgin’s arms, leans towards one of the Kings and, curious, touches one of the precious containers filled with gold, incense and myrrh.

The collecting history of this work is shared with the Doubting Thomas (inv. 223) and Garofalo’s Madonna and Child Enthroned with Sts Peter and Paul (inv. 213), undoubtedly from the Aldobrandini collection. Recent studies have confirmed a period in Meldola (Costamagna 2000), given its inclusion in an inventory previously linked to the Salviati inheritance but now known to have been that of Cardinal Pietro (Tarissi de Jacobis 2003[2004]).

A few of the physiognomic types seem to connect the painting in the Borghese Collection to the Christ and the Adultress listed in the inventory of Olimpia senior and now in the National Gallery, London (inv. 641). As for the composition, especially the elements that lend humanity and naturalism to the work (like the old man looking out from above and the doves), this painting can be compared to the Adoration of the Shepherds in the Uffizi, Florence (inv. 1890 no. 1352). In this work, as in the just-cited London painting, we find elements of a new naturalistic lyricism as well as a certain preference for the stylistic influences found in contemporary paintings by artists active in the Brescia area (Tarissi de Jacobis 2002).

Lara Scanu

  • G. Morelli, Kunstkritische Studien über italienische Malerei. Die Galerien zu München und Dresden, Leipzig 1890 (ed. 1892), p. 219
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 464
  • R. H. Benson, Exhibition of Pictures, Drawings and Photographs of Works of the School of Ferrara-Bologna, 1440-1550, also of Members of the Houses of Este and Bentivoglio, catalogo della mostra a cura di R. H. Benson, London 1894, n. 40
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle gallerie italiane. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, n. 218
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 56, n. 93
  • S. Zamboni, Ludovico Mazzolino, Ferrara 1968, p. 21
  • A. Coliva, Galleria Borghese, Roma 1994, p. 126 n. 64
  • V. Romani, in A. Ballarin, Dosso Dossi. La pittura a Ferrara negli anni del Ducato di Alfonso I, Cittadella (PD) 1994-1995, I, scheda 166
  • P. Costamagna, La collection de peintures d’une famille florentine étabilie à Rome: l’inventaire aprés décès du duc Anton Maria Salviati, «Nuovi Studi», 8, 2000, p. 214 n. 79
  • C. Stefani, in Galleria Borghese, a cura di P. Moreno e C. Stefani, Milano 2000, p. 259
  • S. Tarissi de Jacobis, in Il museo senza confini. Dipinti ferraresi del Rinascimento nelle raccolte romane, a cura di J. Bentini e S. Guarino, Milano 2002, pp. 194-195, scheda 38
  • S. Tarissi de Jacobis, Nuova luce su vecchie carte: l’eredità Aldobrandini e la collezione Borghese, «Proporzioni», 4, 2003(2004), pp. 160-191