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Blessed Michelina

copy after Barocci Federico

(Urbino c. 1535 - 1612)

This drawing is a smaller-format copy of the painting representing Blessed Michelina executed by Federico Barocci in 1606 for the church of San Francesco in Pesaro (today held by the Pinacoteca Vaticana). While in the past the drawing was thought to be a preparatory study for Barocci’s painting, today critics recognise it as derivation of modest quality. It entered the Borghese Collection in 1948 through a donation by General Teodorico Serra.

Object details

post 1606
water coloured drawing
cm 46 x 35

19th-century frame with four corner palmettes, 62 x 52 x 6.5 cm


Donated by General Teodorico Serra, 1948.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1980 Gianluigi Colalucci
  • 1983 Gianluigi Colalucci


The work became part of the Borghese Collection thanks to a donation made by General Teodorico Serra in 1948.

The drawing is a copy of the painting Blessed Michelina, held today in the Vatican Museums (see the exhibition catalogue for the Mostra di Federico Barocci, (Bologna, Museo Civico, 1975), edited by A. Emiliani, Bologna 1975, pp. 214-16, no. 261). The painting was made by Federico Barocci in 1606 for the church of San Francesco in Pesaro, as we know from document formerly in the Biblioteca Oliveriana of that city (now lost, the document was published by R.H. Krommes in Studien zu Federigo Barocci, Leipzig 1912, p. 128). Commissioned by Alessandro Barignani, the painting commemorates the figure of Michelina Metella, who lived in the 14th century. Michelina married a member of the Malatesta family; following the early deaths of her husband and their only son, she became a Franciscan tertiary, devoting her life to helping the poor. Her reputation immediately made her into a cult figure, culminating in her beatification in the 1730s. Barocci’s painting was removed from the church in Pesaro in 1797 to be taken to France; it returned to Italy following Napoleon’s defeat, becoming part of the Vatican collections.

The work depicts the kneeling figure of the Blessed, her gaze directed toward heaven, from which a ray of divine light is cast. The allusion is to Michelina’s journey to the Holy Land: on the Calvary, she fell into ecstasy and had a vision of God the Father speaking to her.

According to Luigi Serra (1920, pp. 200-201, and 1925, pp. 226-228), the Borghese drawing was a preparatory study for the Vatican painting, which indicated that Barocci had by this point reached an advanced stage in the development of the project. Although great differences are apparent between the drawing and the finished painting, both in the rendering of Michelina’s garments and in her expression, Serra believed that Barocci created both works. Yet the presence of a grid in the drawing and its modest quality led later critics to more persuasively consider it a derivation of the original (Della Pergola 1959, p. 71, no. 104; Olsen 1955, p. 164, and 1962, p. 208).

For this reason, the work in question must date to after 1606. Yet a lack of further information about its origin prevents us from more precisely locating it chronologically.

Pier Ludovico Puddu

  • L. Serra, La “Santa Michelina” del Barocci. Studi preparatori, in “Arte Cristiana”, VIII, 1920, pp. 200-201;
  • L. Serra, La Santa Michelina del Barocci. Studi preparatori, in “Rassegna Marchigiana”, VI 1925, pp. 226-228;
  • P. Della Pergola, Itinerario della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1951, p. 43;
  • H. Olsen, Federico Barocci. A Critical Study in Italian Cinquecento Painting, Stoccolma 1955, p. 164;
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 71, n. 104;
  • H. Olsen, Federico Barocci, Copenaghen 1962, p. 208;
  • 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. 184.