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Christ and the Samaritan Woman

Scuola di Garofalo, Benvenuto Tisi, detto il

(Ferrara 1476 ca - 1559)

This painting is listed in the inventory of 1700 with a curious attribution to Pietro Giulianello, who was actually probably its owner. This name also turns up in connection with another painting in the Borghese Collection, a Christ and the Samaritan Woman, also on canvas. Scholars consider the work to have been painted by the Ferrara artist’s workshop.

Object details

post 1530
Oil on canvas
cm 106 x 155

Borghese collection, documented in Inv. 1693, room III, no. 140; Inv. 1790, room V, no. 43; Inventario fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 23. Purchased by the Italian state, 1902.

  • 2008, Ferrara, Castello Estense
  • 2009-2010, Tokyo-Kyoto
  • 2011, Illegio, Casa delle Esposizioni
  • 2022, Ferrara, Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Programma MiC: 100 opere tornano a casa)
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 2001 Marco Petrangeli
  • 2021 Measure3D di Danilo Salzano (laser scan 3D)
  • 2021 Erredicci (diagnostics)
  • 2021 ArsMensurae di Stefano Ridolfi (diagnostics)
  • 2021 IFAC-CNR (diagnostics)


The inventories of the Borghese Collection that list this painting attribute it to the mysterious Pietro Giulianello, who is also cited in relation to another work in the collection (inv. 235). Although our information about Giulianello is quite vague, he was probably not the painter but rather the original owner of the work or an intermediary for its acquisition. The attribution to this elusive master was repeated in the early literature (Lanzi 1834; Platner 1842) and then corrected to Garofalo or his school at the end of the nineteenth century (Morelli 1890; Venturi 1893). The history of the painting’s mistaken attribution was mapped out for the first time in the Galleria’s catalogue (Della Pergola 1955), which also revealed the repetitiveness in the documents.

After the restoration in 2001, all doubt was removed as to the attribution of this work to Garofalo, given the exceptionally high quality of the painting and perfect union between the landscape and the elongated figures, aspects that might have disoriented scholars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Danieli 2008) as well as scholars writing at the beginning of the twenty-first century, when the painting was attributed instead to a follower of Garofalo with some seventeenth-century modifications (Herrmann Fiore 2002), which were identified during the restoration to be limited to the area of the Magdalene’s diadem.

This Gospel episode (John 20:17) was not new to Garofalo. The prototype for this work is undoubtedly the painting in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara (inv. PNFe 305), a known copy of which is in the collection of Palazzo Barberini, Rome (Mochi Onori in Il museo senza confini 2002, p. 94 object description 19, on loan to the Corte dei Conti since 1949). Looking in particular at body language, the Borghese version would seem to be a combination of the Ferrara work, datable to about 1525, and the painting now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (inv. Gemäldegalerie, 6757), dating to the 1530s and formerly in the collection of Camillo Castiglioni, an Austrian banker with Italian roots (1928).

The original composition did not include the forest, the landscape comprising solely of a village overlooking a body of water. In the foreground, Christ leans on his staff, which is slightly moved forward, almost in emulation of a highly refined dance step, and extends his left arm towards the Magdalene in the distancing gesture that distinguishes the Noli Me Tangere theme. The woman, in the sumptuous clothing typical of noblewomen in the 1530s, holds an exquisite ointment jar in her left hand and kneels elegantly as if wrapped in a breeze that seems to emanate from Christ’s gesture, rustling her red drapery.

Lara Scanu


Francesca Cappelletti - Noli me tangere by Garofalo Pt.1
  • L. Lanzi, Storia pittorica dell’Italia dal risorgimento delle Belle Arti fin presso la fine del XVIII secolo, II, Firenze 1834, p. 35
  • E. Platner, Bes Chreibung der Stadt Rom, III.3. Das Marsfeld, die Tiberinsel, Trastevere und der Janiculus, III, Stuttgart 1842, p. 290
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 134
  • G. Gruyer, L’art Ferrarais a l’époque des Princes d’Este, II, Parigi 1897, p. 249
  • G. Morelli, Della Pittura Italiana. Studi Storici Critici: Le Gallerie Borghese e Doria Pamphili in Roma, Milano 1897, p. 208
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle gallerie italiane. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928 (ed. 1967), p. 344 n. 244
  • 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, n. 70
  • P. Della Pergola, L’inventario Borghese del 1693, «Arte Antica e Moderna», 16, 1964, p. 226 n. 140
  • B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Central Italian and North Italian Schools, I, London 1968, p. 158
  • 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, p. 188, scheda 35
  • K. Hermann Fiore, Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla Pinacoteca ai depositi, un museo che non ha più segreti, Roma 2006, p. 82
  • M. Danieli, scheda n. 45, in Garofalo. Pittore della Ferrara Estense, catalogo della mostra (Ferrara, Castello Estense, 5 aprile - 6 luglio 2008), a cura di T. Kustodieva, M. Lucco, Milano 2008, p. 168