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Christ carrying the Cross

Solario Andrea

(Milan 1473-74 - 1520)

The attribution of this panel has been much debated. Although it is signed and dated on the back, some critics have cast doubt as to its authenticity, as it was not Solario’s usual practice to sign his works in this way. The question has been further complicated by the presence of a 19th-century label, also on the back of the panel, which ascribes the work to Giovanni Bellini.

The painting depicts Christ, who wears a scarlet tunic and the crown of thorns as he bears a heavy cross on his shoulder. He is accompanied by Simon of Cyrene and an irreverent executioner, whose physiognomy betrays the influence of northern European culture on Solario, which he probably absorbed in France, where he worked after being engaged by Cardinal George d’Amboise in 1507.

Object details

1510-14 or c. 1524
oil on panel
cm 58 x 67

Salvator Rosa, 76 x 67 x 5.5 cm


(?) Rome, collection of Giuseppe Cesari, called Cavalier d’Arpino, 1607 (K. Herrmann Fiore in Caravaggio 2000); (?) Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693. room: ‘toward the Garden’, no. 412; K. Herrmann Fiore in Il Cinquecento lombardo 2000); Rome, Borghese Collection, 1833 (Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 19; Della Pergola 1955. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.


On the back: "ANDREA DE SOLARIO PIN(S)IT 1511"

  • 1984 Roma, Palazzo Barberini;
  • 1992 Venezia, Palazzo Grassi;
  • 2000-01 Milano, Palazzo Reale;
  • 2011-12 Madrid, Casa Exposiction de Madrid Canal de Isabel II.
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903-05 Luigi Bartolucci
  • 1914 Tito Venturini Papari
  • 1918 Tito Venturini Papari
  • 1958 Renato Massi (frame)
  • 1996-97 Paola Tollo, Carlo Ceccotti


The provenance of this painting is uncertain. It was first documented in connection with the Borghese Collection in the Inventario Fidecommissario of 1833. Although Kristina Herrmann Fiore proposed that the work appears in the list of paintings confiscated from Cavalier d’Arpino in 1607 (‘Another painting of the Saviour with the cross’; K. Herrmann Fiore in Caravaggio 2000), the absence of more precise information, including the dimensions, support material and artist’s name, compels us to treat this hypothesis with great caution. At the same time, we must recognise that the arguments put forth by this scholar for this thesis are quite credible: in particular, she pointed to similarities between the work in question and both the Christ Mocked by Cesari (church of San Carlo ai Catinari) and the Young Sick Bacchus by the young Caravaggio (inv. no 534).

The description of a painting in the Borghese inventory of 1693 would seem to correspond more closely to the work in question: ‘A painting of three spans on panel with the Saviour carrying a cross, no. 492, with a gilded frame, by Bordenone’. In this case both the dimensions and support material match those of our composition (K. Herrmann Fiore in Il Cinquecento lombardo 2000); in addition, the attribution to Bordenone – alias Giovanni Antonio de’ Sacchis – is not too distant from the name of the artist indicated on a label on the back of the work, namely ‘GIO. BELLIN’, or Giovanni Bellini. 

These doubts about the work’s provenance, then, do not allow us to pinpoint the precise date of its entry into the Borghese Collection. By contrast, critics now agree on the name of the painter, who since 1869 has been identified as Andrea Solario (Mündler 1869). This attribution has generally been accepted, in some cases with reservations (A. Venturi 1893; Rusconi 1906; Morelli 1890), in others unhesitatingly (Crowe-Cavalcaselle 1871; Bode 1898; Berenson 1907; De Schlegel 1913; Suida 1920; Longhi 1928; De Rinaldis 1948; Della Pergola 1955; Cogliati Arano 1965; Brown 1987; K. Herrmann Fiore in Caravaggio 2000 and in Il Cinquecento lombardo 2000; Stefani 2000; Herrmann Fiore 2006). At the same time, a number of critics have dissented from this opinion: William Bode and Giovanni Morelli initially believed that the work was a copy of a lost original (Morelli 1874; Bode 1879), only to later change their minds and accept the attribution to Solario (Morelli 1880; Bode 1898). Others, meanwhile, have maintained the panel is a Flemish copy of a lost original (Meder 1913, Badt 1914; Bercken 1927). Fanning these doubts about the artist’s identity is the existence of a preparatory study held at the Albertina in Vienna (Graphische Sammlung, inv. no. 18817; Meder 1913) as well as the inscription on the back of our panel that reads ‘ANDREA DE SOLARIO PI(N)SIT 1511’: while some critics believe this signature to be genuine (Longhi 1928; De Rinaldis 1948; Cogliati Arano 1965; Berenson 1968), others point to the fact that the painter usually signed his works ‘ANDREAS FACIEBAT’ (Della Pergola 1955; Brown 1987; Beguin 1999; Stefani 2000).

In the opinion of Kristina Herrmann Fiore (in Il Cinquecento lombardo 2000), the signature helps us to more precisely determine when the panel was painted. In the worst of cases, if the work is not autograph the inscription is at least contemporary with the execution of the composition, which she dates to between 1510 and 1514, that is, just after Solario’s return from France and shortly before the beginning of the Roman phase of his career; this chronology is indeed supported by certain similarities with the Salome in Vienna (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie, inv. no. 898). On the other hand, in the view of Brown (1987) the signature is not contemporary with the execution of the work. This critic argued that the panel was one of the later products of the Milanese painter, closer to the airy, monumental quality of the Blessing Christ in the Metropolitan Museum (New York, inv. no. 22.16.12) or to the figures of the apostles in the Assumption in the Certosa di Pavia, which was left unfinished in 1524, the year of Solario’s death.

Regarding the subject, Brown (1992) identified the precise moment depicted by the artist, namely when Jesus was on the road to Golgotha and exclaimed, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me (Matthew 16:24). The composition indeed seems to be influenced by that mysticism that was widespread in the early 16th century, when such texts as De imitatione Christi and the Meditazione de la Passione de Christo enjoyed a certain popularity, stimulating artists to give pictorial expression to their messages (Brown 1987).

Kristina Herrmann Fiore further proposed that a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci (Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, inv. no. 231; Herrmann Fiore in Il Cinquecento lombardo 2000) is at the base of this painting, as is suggested by similarities with Solario’s drawing conserved in Vienna. At the same time, in the drawing Solario distances himself from both Leonardo’s work and the Borghese panel, which was evidently executed several years later. It is also true that the popularity of the subject, which was widely sought after by the faithful for its devotional impact, may have somehow compelled the painter to return to the theme on more than one occasion, as is proven by the existence of different variations by Solario, including those in the Seward Johnson Collection (Princeton, New Jersey; inv. no. 1505) and in the Musée des Beaux Artes in Nantes (inv. no. 160); these were executed, respectively, before and perhaps shortly after the Borghese exemplar (on this topic, see K. Herrmann Fiore in Il Cinquecento lombardo 2000).

Antonio Iommelli

  • J. A. Crowe, G. B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in North Italy, VI, London 1864, p. 160;
  • O. Mündler, Beiträge zum Burckhardt’s Cicerone, in “Jahrbuch der Kunstwissenschaft”, II, 1869, pp. III, IV;
  • J. A. Crowe, G.B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in North Italy, London 1871, pp. 53-54; Morelli 1874, p. 252;
  • W. Lübke, Geschichte der Italienischen Malerei vom vierten bis ins sechzehnte Jahrhundert, II, Stuttgart 1878, p. 449;
  • G. Morelli 1880, p. 78;
  • G. Morelli, Kunstkritische Studien uber Italianische Malerei: die Galerien Borghese und Doria-Pamphili in Rom, Leipzig 1890, pp. 261-217;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 438;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 211;
  • G. Morelli, Della Pittura Italiana. Studi Storici Critici: Le Gallerie Borghese e Doria Pamphili in Roma, Milano 1897, p. 168;
  • W. Bode, J. Burckhardt, Der Cicerone. Eine Einleitung zum Genuss der Kunstwerke Italiens, Leipzig 1898, p. 836;
  • A. J. Rusconi, La Villa, il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Bergamo 1906, pp. 42-43;
  • B. Berenson, The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance, New York-London, p. 295;
  • L. De Schlegel, Andrea Solario, Milano 1913, pp. 86-88, 215;
  • J. Meder, Andrea Solarios Handzeicnungen, in "Die Graphischen Künste, Mitteilungen", XXXVI, 1913, 1913, pp. 34-36;
  • K. Badt, Andrea Solario, sein Leben und seine Werke. Ein betrag zur Kunstgeschichte der Lombardei, Leipzig 1914, 1914, pp. 86-89, 215, tav. XI;
  • A. Venturi, La storia dell'arte italiana, VII, La pittura del Quattrocento, Roma 1915, p. 973;
  • W. Suida 1920, pp. 30, 39;
  • E. Bercken, Malerei der Renaissance in Italien, Berlin 1927, pp. 151-152;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 222;
  • W. Suida, Eine Zeichnung des Andrea Solario in der Albertina, in “Belvedere”, X, 1931, p. 34;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1948, p. 42;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 28;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 84, n. 150;
  • L. Cogliati Arano, Andrea Solario, Milano 1965, pp. 40-41 n. 39, 83 fig. 76;
  • S. Ringbom, Icon to narrative. The rise of dramatic close-up in fifteenth-century devotional painting, Abo 1965 pp. 154-155 fig. 125;
  • [Senza Autore], Advertisement Supplement, Notable works of Art now on the Market, in “The Burlington Magazine”, CIX, 1967, 771, p. 386, tav. VI;
  • B. Berenson, Italian pictures of the Renaissance. Central Italian and North Italian schools, New York 1968, p. 411;
  • M. Garbieri, L. Mucchi, in Leonardeschi ai raggi “X”: capolavori d’arte lombarda, catalogo della mostra (Milano, Castello Sforzesco, 1972), a cura di M. Precerutti Garberi, Milano 1972, pp. 122-123;
  • A. Chastel, Musée du Louvre, département des Peintures: le Portement de Croix de Lorenzo Lotto, in "Revue du Louvre", XXXII, 1982, p. 270;
  • A. Vezzosi, Leonardo e il leonardismo a Napoli e a Roma, catalogo della mostra (Napoli, Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, 1983; Roma, Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Venezia, 1984), a cura di A. Vezzosi, Firenze 1983, p. 216 n. 492;
  • D. A. Browm, Andrea Solario, Milano 1987, p. 286 n. 72 (con ulteriore bibliografia);
  • L. Cogliati Arano, Un inedito Solario alle Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia, in Quaderno di Studi sull'arte lombarda dai Visconti agli Sforza per gli 80 anni di Gian Alberto dell'Acqua, a cura di M.T. Balboni Brizza, Milano 1990, p. 38, fig. 6;
  • P. C. Marani, in Leonardo & Venezia, catalogo della mostra (Venezia, Palazzo Grassi, 1992), a cura di G. Nepi Sciré, P.C. Marani, Milano 1992, pp. 345-346 n. 69, p. 356;
  • D. A. Brown, in Leonardo & Venezia, catalogo della mostra (Venezia, Palazzo Grassi, 1992), a cura di G. Nepi Sciré, P.C. Marani, Milano 1992, p. 356, n. 73;
  • D. A. Brown, A 'Cleopatra' by Solario, in "Raccolta Vinciana", XXIV, 1992, pp. 55-59;
  • S. Béguin, Andrea Solario en France, in Léonard de Vinci entre France et Italie, Caen 1999, pp. 81-98;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, in Il Cinquecento lombardo: da Leonardo a Caravaggio, catalogo della mostra (Milano, Palazzo Reale, 2000-01), a cura di F. Caroli, Milano 2000, pp. 120-122, cat. III. 24;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, in Caravaggio: la luce nella pittura lombarda, catalogo della mostra (Bergamo, Accademia Carrara, 2000), a cura di C. Strinati, Milano 2000, pp. 60-61, n. 9;
  • C. Stefani, in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 272;
  • 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. 150.