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Christ and the Samaritan Woman

Follower of Tisi Benvenuto called Garofalo

(Garofalo or Ferrara 1476 - Ferrara 1559)

This painting might have been made by a Flemish artist active in Ferrara and working in the style of Garofalo. The subject is drawn from an episode in the Gospel of John (4.6–10), in which Jesus, tired from his journey to Galilee, asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water from Jacob’s well, despite the notorious hostility between Jews and Samaritans.

Object details

1520 circa
oil on panel
cm 49 x 36

Borghese collection, documented in Inv. 1693, room V, no. 280; Inv. 1790, Room of the Hermaphrodite, no. 36; Inventario fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 33, no. 25. Purchased by the Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1906 Luigi Bartolucci (pest control)
  • 2000 Carlo Festa (Laboratorio di restauro ex Soprintendenza c/o Palazzo Barberini)
  • 2019 Koinè (painting and frame)
  • 2020 Measure3D di Danilo Salzano (laser scan 3D)
  • 2020 Erredicci (diagnostics)
  • 2020 IFAC-CNR (diagnostics)


This painting, together with the other one of the same subject that was produced in the same context (inv. 221) and has been in the Borghese Collection since at least the inventory of 1693, follows a narrative format used by Garofalo and his school multiple times for this episode in the Gospel of John (4.13–15): Christ is sitting on Jacob’s well, talking to a woman from Samaria and asking her for water, promising her water that can quench her thirst for all of eternity. The scene takes place in a landscape that includes, in keeping with the New Testament story, Sichem, the city where the Samaritan woman will go to announce the coming of the new Messiah.

Adolfo Venturi (1893) perceived a strong Flemish influence in these paintings, which would have been very much within the realm of possibility for Ferrara artists, given the massive presence of artists from Flanders and the Low Countries in the Este capital during the sixteenth century. In this painting, Flemish attention to minute detail is combined with the Venetian approach to colour and the sculptural quality of the figures typical of art in central-northern Italy during those years.

The small painting was attributed to Garofalo in the Borghese inventory of 1693, but this was later changed, in the document of 1790 and the fideicommissary of 1833, to the school of Michelangelo. These theories – although exaggerated and corrected starting with Venturi to a more geographically and stylistically plausible attribution that was then revised by Longhi (1928), who proposed an anonymous seventeenth-century copyist – seem justifiable if you date the painting to Garofalo and his workshop’s production in the 1540s, when the artist was inspired by Vasari’s painting, which was in turn inspired by Michelangelo (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. 281
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, pp. 130-131
  • G. Gruyer, L’art Ferrarais a l’époque des Princes d’Este, II, Parigi 1897, p. 325
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle gallerie italiane. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, nn. 221, 227
  • A. Venturi, Storia dell’Arte Italiana. La pittura del Cinquecento, IX, 4, Milano 1929, p. 318
  • B. Berenson, Pitture italiane del Rinascimento: catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere con un indice dei luoghi, Milano 1936, p. 188
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, nn. 68, 69
  • 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. 186-187, scheda 34