The poor state of conservation unfortunately biases any interpretation of the painting. It has been traditionally attributed to Alessandro Turchi, known as Orbetto, a Veronese painter who worked for Scipione Borghese between 1616 and 1619 together with Marcantonio Bassetti.
The work shows the lifeless body of Christ watched over by two angels who light the surrounding environment with a torch. The Messiah’s sculpted monumental figure emerges from the darkness, skilfully rendered by the artist through the shrewd use of slate which provides a fascinating nocturnal effect.
Salvator Rosa, 32.3 x 31.5 x 5 cm
(?) Rome, collection of Scipione Borghese, 1617-1619 (Della Pergola 1955); Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room XI, no. 41); Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 27; purchased by the Italian State, 1902
According to Paola della Pergola (1955), this painting – traditionally attributed to Alessandro Turchi, called l’Orbetto – entered the Borghese Collection in about 1617-1619, together with two other paintings on slate also in the Galleria Borghese: the Resurrection of Lazzarus (inv. 506) and the Lamentation of Christ with the Magdalene and Four Angels (inv. 499). The painter was in fact highly regarded by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who commissioned a number of works from him, including the frescoes in the Casino del Barco, the Manna Harvest in the Sala Regia of the Quirinale, a lost painting of St Peter and the Servant Girl and a painting for Villa Mondragone.
This was probably the period during which l’Orbetto made this refined small-format painting, securely documented in the Borghese Collection for the first time in 1693 and mistakenly attributed to the Carracci in the inventory of 1790. The poor condition of the painting, already noted by Adolfo Venturi in 1893, prevented Roberto Longhi (1928) from attempting an attribution, whereas Paola della Pergola, holding it to be a variation on the Lamentation of Christ with the Magdalene and Four Angels (inv. 499), attributed it without reservation to l’Orbetto.
The painting depicts the dead body of Christ watched over by two angels, the torch of whom illuminates the space. The darkness surrounding the monumental, sculptural figure of Christ – which calls to mind the Pietà (Naples, Museo di Capodimonte) painted by Annibale Carracci for Cardinal Odoardo Farnese in Rome – was rendered making masterful use of the slate support, upon which the paint creates a delicate play of light and shadow. Turchi was highly regarded in Rome for his refined paintings on Lydian stone, a material widely used in Verona starting in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, which the artist became familiar with in the workshop of his teacher Felice Brusasorzi, whose style Turchi combined with the more modern approach of Carlo Saraceni, Gerrit van Honthorst and the French painters active in Rome at the time.