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Manner of van Ostade Isaak

Haarlem 1621 - 1649

Like many works of the Flemish school in the Borghese Collection, this panel was purchased by Marcantonio IV Borghese in 1783. At the time it was sold as a work by Isaac van Ostade, though critics now recognise it as a copy by an unknown artist made around the mid-18th century.  The painting was certainly inspired by those works by the Dutch artist depicting domestic interiors and scenes of daily life.

The panel depicts the interior of a shop as a barber shaves a man. A number of haphazardly arranged objects brings the room to life and gives the setting a popular character. The representation is enriched by a cage hanging from the ceiling, a barrel of wine, a sleeping dog and a small boy, probably a young apprentice.

Object details

Mid-18th century
Oil on panel
cm 28 x 40

19th-century frame


Rome, purchased by Marcantonio IV Borghese from Giovanni De Rossi, 30 January 1783 (Della Pergola 1959); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 36. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903 Luigi Bartolucci (pest control);
  • 1950 Augusto Cecconi Principi (varnish).


On 30 January 1783, Marcantonio IV Borghese purchased seven paintings by Flemish artists through Gavin Hamilton. Among these was ‘a small work by Isaac van Ostade depicting a country barber, with an engraved, gilded frame’ (see Della Pergola 1959). Paola della Pergola (1959) rightly matched this description with the panel in question, which was purchased from Giovanni De Rossi, a merchant ‘specialised in this genre’ who having agreed with the English painter on the works to be sold to the prince received the total sum of 670 scudi from Hamilton.

Adolfo Venturi (1893) excluded the possibility that the work was by Van Ostade himself. The work is indeed a copy, perhaps dating to the 18th century, inspired by the oeuvre of the Dutch artist. The panel in fact bears the inscription ‘JSAAC VAN OSTADE 1686’; yet, as is well known, the painter died in 1649, years before the date indicated by the anonymous copyist. As Della Pergola (1959) proposed, the great number of Flemish works circulating in mid-18th-century Rome perhaps encouraged forgers and merchants to flood the antiques market with counterfeit paintings, which may account for the provenance of the panel in question.

Antonio Iommelli

  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 363;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 433;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 145;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 201;
  • P. Della Pergola, Un acquisto di opere fiamminghe per la Galleria Borghese, “Mededeelingen van het Nederländsch. Historisch. Instituut te Rome”, (III-X), 1958, p. 34;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 179, n. 265; 224 n. 90;
  • 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. 92.