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Head of an Elderly Man

Manner of Pulzone Scipione

(Gaeta c. 1550 - Rome 1598)

The painting, traditionally attributed to the painter Scipione Pulzone, is attested in the Borghese Collection since the end of the eighteenth century. It depicts on the head of an old man – perhaps a prophet, a philosopher, or an apostle – most probably executed by a painter active in Rome in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century.

Object details

fine XVI - primi anni XVII secolo
oil on paper
cm 36 x 28

Salvator Rosa (cm 49 x 38 x 4,5)


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, St. X, no. 42; Della Pergola 1959); Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 18; Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 2003 Andrea Parri (frame)


This head, a study of good quality depicting an elderly man, is first attested in the Borghese Collection in 1790 (Della Pegola 1959), attributed by the inventory drafter to Scipione Pulzone, a name repeated both in the fideicommissum lists (1883) and by Giovanni Piancastelli (1891). In 1912, returning to the attribution to Ludovico Carracci formulated by Adolfo Venturi (1893), Giulio Cantalamessa described this work on paper as a study for the head of Saint Philip Neri, a hypothesis overlooked by Roberto Longhi (1928) who, however, confirmed the Carracci interpretation proposed by his colleague, seeing a relation between the painting and Annibale’s catalogue. When the catalogue of the Borghese Gallery paintings was published in 1959, Paola della Pergola revived the old attribution to the Gaeta painter, likening this study to the face of Saint Joseph in the Holy Family with Young Saint John and Saint Elizabeth, (Borghese Gallery, inv. no. 313), with which, according to the scholar, this Head shares ‘the second-hand Venetianism [...], the wrinkles on the forehead, the square ear lobe, and the specific type of features’ (Ead.). This attribution, confirmed by Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2006), must surely be revised in favour of a painter active in Rome in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century who was sensitive to Annibale’s Bolognese manner and Venetian figurative models.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 354;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 167;
  • G. Cantalamessa, Note manoscritte al Catalogo di A. Venturi del 1893, Arch. Gall. Borghese, 1911-1912, n. 342;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 209;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 113, n. 167;
  • A. Donò, Scipione Pulzone da Gaeta (1545 - 1598): il pittore della “Madonna della Divina Provvidenza”, in “Barnabiti studi”, XIII, 1996, pp. 7-13, p. 82, n. 43;
  • 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. 113.