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Head of an Old Man

Follower of Barocci Federico

(Urbino c. 1535 - 1612)

Initially attributed to Federico Barocci, this work was later ascribed to Raphael’s circle. It was only first mentioned in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1833. The painting shows clear connections with Barocci’s oeuvre, as can be seen by comparing it with other works by him held in the Galleria Borghese, in particular the head of Saint Jerome and that of Anchises in Aeneas Fleeing Troy. Yet notwithstanding these similarities, the work in question does not meet up to Barocci’s standard, leading critics to propose that it is a product of a follower, perhaps from the Sienese school.


Object details

fine XVI, inizi XVII secolo
oil on paper glued onto canvas
cm 31 x 22

late 19th-century frame, 41 x 107.5 x 5.6 cm


Borghese Collection, cited in Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, p. 23, no. 8; purchased by Italian state, 1902.


This small work, which was executed in oil on paper and then glued onto canvas, is a study of the head of an old man. It was first documented in connection with the Borghese Collection in the 1833 Inventario Fidecommissario. While Adolfo Venturi (1893, p. 107) ascribed it to Federico Barocci, Roberto Longhi (1928, p. 193) preferred an attribution to a follower of Raphael, dating it to around the mid-16th century. Subsequently, Paola Della Pergola (1959, pp. 70-71) reconnected the painting to Barocci or his circle, basing her opinion on relevant comparisons with other works known to be by him, in particular the head of Anchises in Aeneas Fleeing Troy and that of Saint Jerome, both held by the Galleria Borghese (inv. nos 68 and 403). She further pointed to similarities with the apostle in the background of the Eucharist in Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. As Della Pergola herself noted, these comparisons lead to two conclusions: on the one hand, they show clear connections to the oeuvre of the master from Urbino; on the other, they indicate that the work in question cannot be directly attributed to Barocci, given the its less refined execution compared to his usual standard. For these reasons, the work cannot be considered autograph but rather a product of a follower. For her part, Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2006, p. 57) more specifically proposed that it may have been painted by a Sienese artist of the late Cinquecento.

Pier Ludovico Puddu

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 441;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 107;
  • G. Cantalamessa, Note manoscritte al Catalogo di A. Venturi del 1893, Arch. Gall. Borghese, 1911-1912, n. 162;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 193;
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 70-71, n. 102;
  • 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. 57.