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Ecce Homo

Mailly Simon de called Simon de Chalons

(Chalons sur Marne, notizie dal 1532 - c. Avignone 1562)

First documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection in the 17th century, this painting was executed in 1543 by the French painter Symon de Châlons, whose signature is still legible on the back of its pendant, which depicts Our Lady of Sorrows (inv. no. 280). Probably purchased by or donated to Cardinal Scipione Borghese during his legation in Avignon, the panel shows Christ with the crown of thorns while he holds the stick with which he was beaten. His melancholic expression is emphasised by the close-up perspective and the dark background, lending the image even greater force; the work is indeed intended to involve the observer emotionally and stimulate profound reflection in him/her.

Object details

oil on panel
cm 33 x 22

Salvator Rosa, 45.4 x 31.8 x 6 cm


(?) Rome, collection of Scipione Borghese, ante 1633 (Venturi 1893); Rom, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room I, nos 21-22; Della Pergola 1959); Inv. 1790, room X, nos 29-30; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, pp. 18, 20; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

  • 2009 - Illegio, Casa delle Esposizioni
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903-05 - Luigi Bartolucci (support);
  • 1996-97 - Carlo Ceccotti, Paola Tollo (support, frame);
  • 2006-07 - Paola Tollo.


Together with its pendant Our Lady of Sorrows (inv. no. 280), this panel was first mentioned in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1693, when it was described in the inventory of that year as ‘a small painting approximately one span high with the Saviour, that is an Ecce Homo, at no. 30, with a gilded frame, artist uncertain’ (Inv. 1693; see Della Pergola 1959). Initially ascribed to Federico Zuccari (Inv. 1790; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833), the work was rightly attributed to the French artist Simon de Mailly when his signature was discovered on the back of the pendant in 1891 (‘SYMON DE CHA/LONS EN CHAPEINE MA PEINE/1543’).

Some critics proposed that the work derives from an older prototype, which has been variously identified as an Ecce Homo held in Leipzig (Borenius 1912), a painting preserved in Paris (Lafenestre 1905), and a lost work by Andrea Solario (Della Pergola 1959; Cogliati 1965); the last-named was executed in France between 1507 and 1509, when the Lombard painter was in the service of the Papal legate of Avignon Georges d'Amboise; it was here that Simon de Châlons presumably made the copy (Béguin 1999). In the year 1543, which appears on the back of Our Lady of Sorrows, Mailly is in fact known to have been in the Provençal city, where he also painted The Holy Kinship (Musée Calvet, Avignon), earning the nickname ‘fabricant de tableaux pieux’ (Zarner 1996). This reconstruction, with which the present writer agrees, rules out both the idea that the painter travelled to Italy – where some believe he especially came to paint the work in question – and the hypothesis that the panel derives from a contemporary print (Roques 1963). On the other hand, Adolfo Venturi’s theory (1893) that Cardinal Scipione Borghese obtained the two paintings at the time of his legation to Avignon is still possible, as many copies were produced there.

Antonio Iommelli