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Adoration of the Shepherds

Tisi Benvenuto called Garofalo

(Garofalo or Ferrara 1476 - Ferrara 1559)

This painting, in which the figures of the shepherds and Joseph are curiously arranged and set in a deliberately small space, represents a stylistic phase during which the painter was influenced by the formal solutions of Mazzolino and so not yet working in the vein typical of his production after his stay in Rome in 1512, during which he worked briefly in Raphael’s workshop.

Object details

1517 circa
oil on panel
cm 47 x 32

Collection of Scipione Borghese, documented in Inv. 1620-1630, no. 229; Inv. 1693, room I, no. 11; Inventario fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 9, no. 13. Purchased by the Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1906 Luigi Bartolucci (pest control)
  • 1936 Augusto Cecconi Principi
  • 1946 Carlo Matteucci
  • 1995 Laura Ferretti (painting and frame)
  • 2007-2008 Paola Mastropasqua
  • 2019 Koinè con Roberto Saccuman
  • 2020 Measure3D di Danilo Salzano (laser scan 3D)
  • 2020 Erredicci (diagnostics)
  • 2020 IFAC-CNR (diagnostics)


Garofalo’s Adoration of the Shepherds was probably in the first group of paintings from Ferrara to arrive in Rome through the mediation of Enzo Bentivoglio or the bishop of Ferrara, given its inclusion in the inventory datable to 1630, where it is described as ‘a painting of the Nativity with shepherds with frame, 2 high, about 1 1/3 wide, Garofalo’.

The Virgin, who is looking at the Christ Child lying in a basket and pointing upward at a group of angels, is in an old ruin where an ox and a donkey can be seen, the latter from behind, framed by an arch. Joseph is sitting next to the arch, sleeping and leaning on a staff, balanced, on the other side of the arch, by a group of adoring shepherds, each a different age.

The pictorial approach of this painting recalls the work of Mazzolino (Fioravanti Baraldi 1993), which stands out for the angularity of some of the figures, the fruit of his study of Dürer’s woodcut series Life of the Virgin (1506). In contrast to early studies dating the work to after 1510 (Fioravanti Baraldi 1993), the heavily influence of works by Raphael like the Madonna of the Baldacchino (Florence, Palazzo Pitti, Inventario Palatina no. 165) seen in altarpieces like the one for the church of San Guglielmo in Ferrara, commissioned by the Franciscan nuns (1517, London, National Gallery, inv. NG671), would instead date the painting to about 1517 (Herrmann Fiore 2002), possibly even 1524 due to the neo-Giorgionesque naturalistic atmosphere that distinguished the painter’s works from that period (Pattanaro 1995).

Lara Scanu

  • E. Platner, Bes Chreibung der Stadt Rom, III.3. Das Marsfeld, die Tiberinsel, Trastevere und der Janiculus, III, Stuttgart 1842, p. 277
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 130
  • G. Gruyer, L’art Ferrarais a l’époque des Princes d’Este, II, Parigi 1897, p. 324
  • G. Morelli, Della Pittura Italiana. Studi Storici Critici: Le Gallerie Borghese e Doria Pamphili in Roma, Milano 1897, p. 207
  • E. G. Gardner, The Painters of the School of Ferrara, London 1911, p. 237
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle gallerie italiane. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 128
  • A. Venturi, Storia dell’Arte Italiana. La pittura del Cinquecento, IX, 3, Milano 1928, pp. 939-940
  • B. Berenson, Pitture italiane del Rinascimento: catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere con un indice dei luoghi, Milano 1936, p. 188
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1948, p. 74
  • P. Della Pergola, Itinerario della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1951, p. 49
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, n. 57
  • P. Della Pergola, L’inventario Borghese del 1693, «Arte Antica e Moderna», 26, 1964, p. 211
  • B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Central Italian and North Italian Schools, I, London 1968, p. 157
  • A. M. Fioravanti Baraldi, Il Garofalo. Benvenuto Tisi pittore (c. 1476-1559), Rimini 1993, n. 37
  • V. Romani, in A. Ballarin, Dosso Dossi. La pittura a Ferrara negli anni del Ducato di Alfonso I, Cittadella (PD) 1994-1995, scheda 290, p. 285
  • A. Pattanaro, La maturità del Garofalo. Annotazioni ad un libro recente, «Prospettiva», 79, 1995, p. 40
  • C. Stefani, in Galleria Borghese, a cura di P. Moreno e C. Stefani, Milano 2000, p. 258
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, in Il museo senza confini. Dipinti ferraresi del Rinascimento nelle raccolte romane, a cura di J. Bentini e S. Guarino, Milano 2002, pp. 158-159, scheda 17