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Christ carrying the Cross

copy after Luciani Sebastiano called Sebastiano del Piombo

(Venice c. 1485 - Rome 1547)

This Christ Carrying the Cross is a copy after Sebastiano del Piombo. It entered the Borghese Collection at some point in the 17th century, having most likely come through the estate of the elder Olimpia Aldobrandini. This panel, of quite good quality, is a partial replica of the well-known composition by the Venetian painter, of which numerous versions were made. In this case, the isolated figure of Christ emerges from the dark background as he drags the cross to Golgotha. The close-up perspective, together with the use of dark colours seems to infuse the scene with greater pathos, rendering it more effective from the devotional point of view.


Object details

Second half of 16th century
oil on panel
cm 76 x 52

Salvator Rosa, 90.4 x 67.5 x 6 cm


Rome, collection of Olimpia Aldobrandini senior, 1626 (Inv. 1626, no. 83, no. 5; Della Pergola 1959); Inv. 1682; Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, room IX, no. 26 (De Rinaldis 1937); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 17. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.


Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903-05 Luigi Bartolucci (pest control)
  • 1952 Augusto Cecconi Principi
  • 2000 Laura Ferretti


This panel comes from the rich estate of the elder Olimpia Aldobrandini. It was listed in the 1626 inventory of the wealthy noblewoman as ‘a painting with Christ carrying the cross, by Giulio Romano, no. 4’ and again in that of 1682 as ‘a work on panel with Christ carrying the cross, by Giulio Romano, three spans high, with an elaborate gilded frame’ (Della Pergola 1955). Missing from the 1693 list of artworks at the Palazzo di Campo Marzio, it reappears in the inventory of 1790, where it was ascribed to the ‘school of Michelangelo’, an attribution repeated in both the 1833 Inventario Fidecommissario and Giovanni Piancastelli’s handwritten profiles (1891). In the Catalogo of 1893, Adolfo Venturi instead ascribed the work to Bernardino Licinio, called Pordenone, yet his idea was rejected by both Giulio Cantalamessa (1912), who attributed the work to an anonymous ‘weak painter’, and Roberto Longhi (1928), who suggested the name of Marco Pino.

In 1959, Paola della Pergola took up Cantalamessa’s hypothesis, rightly publishing the work as a partial copy of the original by Sebastiano del Piombo. In her view, the panel in question was executed by an unknown painter no later than the first half of the 16th century. For her part, Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2006) proposed a more precise attribution to Prospero Fontana.

What is certain is that the success met with by this subject – in part due to several replicas made by Sebastiano himself in the 1540s (Museo del Prado, Madrid; Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg; Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest; Volpe-Lucco 1980) – induced many artists to produce copies, which were appreciated and widely sought after beginning in the second half of the 16th century: it was in this period that the Church, in the wake of the Council of Trent, invited artists to produce images that were faithful to official doctrine and able to evoke sentiments of piety and devotion in Catholics – as in the case of this Christ.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 229;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 98;
  • G. Cantalamessa, Note manoscritte al Catalogo di A. Venturi del 1893, Arch. Gall. Borghese, 1911-1912, n. 135;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 190;
  • A. De Rinaldis, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1937, p. 227;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 137, n. 189;
  • P. Della Pergola, Gli Inventari Aldobrandini: l’Inventario del 1682, I, “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XIX, 1962, p. 322;
  • C. Volpe, M. Lucco, L'opera completa di Sebastiano del Piombo, Milano 1980, ad indicem;
  • 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. 48.