Galleria Borghese logo
Search results for
No results :(

Hints for your search:

  • Search engine results update instantly as soon as you change your search key.
  • If you have entered more than one word, try to simplify the search by writing only one, later you can add other words to filter the results.
  • Omit words with less than 3 characters, as well as common words like "the", "of", "from", as they will not be included in the search.
  • You don't need to enter accents or capitalization.
  • The search for words, even if partially written, will also include the different variants existing in the database.
  • If your search yields no results, try typing just the first few characters of a word to see if it exists in the database.

Head of a laughing youth

Carracci Annibale

(Bologna 1560 - Rome 1609)

The painting, mentioned as ‘Buffoon laughing’, has been part of the Borghese collection since 1693 and portrays the face of a smiling young man, depicted with an unusual headdress similar to a turban, which fits well into the context of the portraits made by Annibale Carracci from 1582. Because the work is incomplete, made on paper later applied to canvas, it provides a glimpse of the drawing’s outlines, which have been filled in with fluid brushstrokes of dense paint.

Object details

1585 circa
oil on paper applied on canvas
cm 44,5 x 29,5

Salvator Rosa, 53.5 x 38.3 x 4.7 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room VII, no. 405; Della Pergola 1964); Inv. 1790, room III, no. 25; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 18; purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

  • 1956 Bologna, Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio;
  • 1982 Roma, Palazzo Venezia;
  • 1984 Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale;
  • 1992 Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni;
  • 1998-1999 Milano, Palazzo Reale;
  • 2006-2007 Bologna, Museo Civico Archeologico;
  • 2007 Roma, Chiostro del Bramante;
  • 2016 Toulouse, Musée des Augustins.
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1992 Istituto Centrale del Restauro (disinfestazione della tavola);
  • 2006 Giantomassi e Zari s.n.c. (pulitura, rimozione delle vernici alterate, asporto dei vecchi restauri, consolidamento, stuccatura delle lacune e verniciatura finale).


This painting is documented as pertaining to the Borghese collection since 1693, generically listed in that year’s inventory as “Laughing Jester” (Della Pergola, 1964). This description was partially corrected in 1790, when the Head was attributed to Caravaggio, a reference which was then revised in the fideicommissum listing of 1833, which ascribed the work to Carracci.

We owe the identification of this oil on paper as an original by Annibale Carracci to Roberto Longhi, who ascribed this painting to the artist’s juvenile period, an opinion confirmed in 1955 by Paola della Pergola who thought the Head was more likely a quick sketch than an actual study by the Bolognese painter.

In 1956 Guido Cavalli placed the painting around 1583-84, a dating that was confirmed some years later by Donald Posner (1971), who saw several analogies with The Butcher’s Shop (Oxford, Christ Church Gallery) and The Bean Eater (Rome, Palazzo Colonna), produced by Carracci in those same years. Furthermore, Posner believed the Borghese Head could be connected both to a work with the same subject “supposed to be a Carracci,” mentioned in a 1677 inventory of the collection of Robert Harpus, a British gentleman residing in Rome (Burdon, 1960); and to a small oval painting “on painted paper glued upon canvas, depicting a laughing jester dressed in green, wearing a red cap with a white feather, by Carazzi’s hand” (Campori, 1879) described in 1698 in the Este palace in Modena.

In 2007 Daniele Benati confirmed the attribution to the Bolognese painter and suggested postponing the execution of the work to 1585, closer to the Pietà in Parma, “in which he draws nearer to Correggio, eliciting similarly refined lapses in form” (Benati, 2007).

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Campori, Raccolta di cataloghi ed inventari inediti, Modena 1870, p. 421;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 188; 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 76; 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, pp. 137-185; 
  • P. della Pergola, Itinerario della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1951, p. 34; 
  • R. Wittkower, Drawings of the Carracci in the Collections of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, London 1952, p. 16; 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 21, n. 16; 
  • G. Cavalli, scheda in Mostra dei Carracci, catalogo della mostra (Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale, 1956), a cura di G.C. Cavalli, Bologna 1956, p. 169, n. 54; 
  • D. Mahon, Afterthought on the Carracci Exhibition, in “Gazette des Beaux Arts”, VI, 1957, p. 268; 
  • E. Borea, Ritratti a mano di Annibale Carracci, in “Arte figurativa”, VIII, 1960, p. 30 e ss.; 
  • G. Burdon, Sir Thomas Isham, an English collector, in "Italian Studies", XV, 1960, p. 25, n. 51; 
  • E. Borea, Annibale Carracci, Milano 1964, p. 5; 
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (II), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVIII, 1964, p. 460; 
  • D. Posner, Annibale Carracci. A Study in the Reform of italian Painting around 1590, New York 1971, I, p. 21; II, p. 6; 
  • S.D. Pepper, I limiti del positivismo: l’Annibale Carracci di Donald Posner, in "Arte Illustrata", XLIX, 1972, p. 266, fig. 4;
  • E. Schleier, Beiträge zu den drei Caracci: der Schachspieler in der Berliner Gemäldegalerie, in “Berliner Museen”, XXI, 1971, p. 70; 
  • W.A. Boschloo, Annibale Carracci in Bologna: visible reality in art after the Council of Trent, I, Gravenhage, Staatsdruckk 1974, p. 30;
  • J.P. Cooney, G. Malafarina, L’opera completa di Annibale Carracci, Milano 1976, pp. 88-89, n. 11; 
  • A. Emiliani, Bologna 1584. Gli esordi dei Carracci e gli affreschi di Palazzo Fava, catalogo della mostra (Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale, 1984), a cura di A. Emiliani, Bologna 1984, pp. 82-83, n. 80;
  • R. Zapperi, Il ritratto e la maschera: ricerche su Annibale Carracci ritrattista, in "Bollettino d’Arte", LX, 1990, pp. 91, 92;
  • A. Magagnini, in Invisibilia. Rivedere i capolavori. Vedere i progetti, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 1992), a cura di M. E. Tittoni, S. Guarino, Roma 1992, p. 25;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, in L’anima e il volto: ritratto e fisiognomica da Leonardo a Bacon, catalogo della mostra (Milano, Palazzo Reale, 1999), a cura di F. Caroli, Milano 1998, p. 235; 
  • S. Santolini, in L’anima e il volto: ritratto e fisiognomica da Leonardo a Bacon, catalogo della mostra (Milano, Palazzo Reale, 1999), a cura di F. Caroli, Milano 1998, pp. 148-149; 
  • C. Stefani, in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 384; 
  • 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. 32; 
  • D. Benati, in Annibale Carracci, catalogo della mostra (Bologna, Museo Civico, 2006-2007; Roma, Chiostro del Bramante. 2007), a cura di D. Benati, E. Riccomini, Bologna 2007, pp. 110-111, n. II.9.