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Giaquinto, Corrado

(Molfetta 1703 - Napoli 1766)

This sketch of the Annunciation entered the Borghese Collection in 1915. It was ascribed to Corrado Giaquinto by Giulio Cantalamessa, director of the Galleria at that time. In spite of numerous hypotheses put forth by critics, the finished painting for which this canvas served as the model has not been identified; one theory is that it was a lost altarpiece. The date of the work is likewise uncertain; scholars have proposed a broad time range corresponding to the last 15 years of the painter’s life.

Object details

datable between 1750 and 1766
oil on canvas
63 x 34 cm

18th-century frame with rocaille carvings, 80 x 40.8 x 4 cm


Purchased by Italian state, 1915.

  • 1993 Bari, Castello Svevo; Roma, Palazzo Venezia
  • 2006 Madrid, Palazzo Reale
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1942 Carlo Matteucci


Purchased by the Italian state in 1915, this sketch in oil depicting the Annunciation entered the Galleria Borghese with an attribution to Corrado Giaquinto, a name confirmed by then director Giulio Cantalamessa in an article published the same year (1915, p. 345).

Later, however, Roberto Longhi (1928, p. 226) challenged this view, instead ascribing the work to an anonymous Neapolitan painter close to Porretta d’Arpino and Giacinto Diano (or Diana). For her part, Paola Della Pergola (1955, p. 88, no. 157) listed the work under the name of the latter artist. Three years later, Mario D’Orsi (1958, p. 122) definitively returned the attribution to Giaquinto, dating it to his Spanish period, namely between 1753 and 1762.

The small arched canvas depicts the Virgin with her arms open as she looks toward the Archangel Gabriel, who is positioned on the opposite side of the scene, supported by a cloud. A dove symbolising the Holy Spirit appears above, emitting rays of light; it is surrounded by a host of small angels. The composition shows several everyday items – objects of common use and pieces of furniture – while the background is closed by a broad green curtain. The artist paid great attention to the colouring: the same pink of the Virgin’s gown reappears in the tight band around Gabriel’s waist and again in the cloth around the upper leg of the small angel seated on a cloud in the upper right-hand corner; the effect is to create a symbolic connection between the terrestrial and divine planes.

Over the years, critics have repeatedly attempted to identify the finished painting for which this sketch served as the model, without, however, reaching definitive conclusions.

Ève Nyerges (1979, p. 208) connected the work in question to the Announcing Angel in the Musée de Beaux-Arts in Budapest, which is believed to be part of the lost Annunciation painted by Giaquinto for the church of San Luigi di Palazzo in Naples, no longer extant. Liliana Barroero (1986, p. 96), meanwhile, maintained that our canvas was an initial idea for the altarpiece with the same subject – dating to roughly 1750 – in the church of the Annunciata in Todi, in light of the strong similarities between the two works. A third hypothesis takes its lead from the existence of a copy of our work, of nearly identical dimensions, held in a private collection in New Haven, Connecticut: this painting in turn has been connected to a project sketched by Luigi Vanvitelli (Royal Palace of Caserta) for the altar of the church of the Padri della Missione in Naples, in which the same composition is perhaps discernible (Nolta 1987, p. 327). Shortly before his death in 1766, Giaquinto in fact collaborated with Vanvitelli on the decorative programme for the Neapolitan church; it is possible that he conceived the work for this occasion. If the work in question can in fact be linked to that project, then together with the New Haven version it would represent the only evidence for a painting of which no traces remain today and which may in fact never have been executed. Kristina Herrmann Fiore (1993), finally, proposed that the Borghese painting was the sketch for the lost altarpiece for the church of the Krankenhaus der Barmherzigen Brüder in Graz (1753).

The variety of proposals put forth by critics regarding the final destination of our sketch is accompanied by a wide array of suggestions for the date of its execution. These range from the early 1750s, close to Giaquinto’s departure for Madrid, where he would work as court painter, to the final years of his life, which he spent in Naples.

Pier Ludovico Puddu

  • G. Cantalamessa, Divagazioni critiche a proposito d’un quadretto di Corrado Giaquinto, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, XXII, 1915, p. 345.
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 226.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 88, n. 157.
  • M. D’Orsi, Corrado Giaquinto, Roma 1958, p. 122.
  • M. Volpi, Corrado Giaquinto e alcuni aspetti della cultura figurativa in Italia nel ’700, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, ser. 4, XLIII, 1958, p. 282, n. 67.
  • È. Nyerges, Une oeuvre récemment attribuée à Corrado Giaquinto, in “Bullettin du Musée Hongrois des Beaux-Arts”, LII, 1979, p. 208.
  • L. Barroero, recensione a Corrado Giaquinto (1703 - 1766), a cura di P. Amato, Molfetta 1985, in “Storia dell’arte” LVI, 1986, p. 96. 
  • D. Nolta, scheda in A taste for angels. Neapolitan painting in North America, 1650-1750, catalogo della mostra (New Haven, Yale University/Art Gallery, 1987. Sarasota, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 1988. Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Gallery of Art, 1988), a cura di M.G. Neil, New Haven 1987, p. 327, n. 48.
  • L. Di Giacomo, scheda in Corrado Giaquinto. Capolavori delle corti in Europa, catalogo della mostra (Bari, Castello Svevo; Roma, Palazzo Venezia, 1993), con testi di C. Strinati et alii, Milano 1993, pp. 216-217, n. 49.
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, La Galleria Borghese al San Michele. Dipinti in mostra nella Chiesa Grande del San Michele, Roma 1993, parete 19, n. 5. 
  • C. Stefani in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 354, n. 5.
  • F. Capobianco, scheda in Corrado Giaquinto y España, catalogo della mostra (Madrid, Palazzo Reale, 2006), a cura di A. Pérez Sánchez, Madrid 2006, pp. 152-153, n. 27.
  • 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. 176.