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Head of the Madonna

Manner of Pippi Giulio called Giulio Romano

(Rome c. 1499 - Mantua 1546)

For some time this work was considered a larger-scale copy of the Virgin of La Perla in Madrid. Today scholars consider it a product of Giulio Romano’s workshop, which was strongly influenced by the style of Raphael and Leonardo. The painting is a head-and-shoulders portrait of the Virgin Mary. The rendering of the face, hair and garment allows us to exclude the possibility that it is an autograph work of the master.

Object details

mid 16th century
oil on panel
cm 52,5 x 40

Salvator Rosa, 65.3 x 54.8 x 6.5 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room V, no. 63; Della Pergola 1959; 1964); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 19. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 2007 Paola Mastropasqua


The provenance of this painting is unknown. It was first mentioned in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1693, when the inventory of that year described it as ‘a work of roughly two-and-a-half spans of a Madonna on panel, no. 189, with a gilded engraved frame, by Raphael’: the number ‘189’ is in fact still legible in the lower left hand corner.

Adolfo Venturi (1893) deemed the work in question a larger-scale copy by Giulio Romano of the Virgin in La Perla in Madrid (formerly attributed to Giulio Romano, Museo del Prado, inv. no P301; now ascribed to Raphael). Today critics rather consider the work in question a product of Giulio’s workshop, executed not by the well-known master as had been believed in the past (Inv. Fid. 1833; Piancastelli 1891; Longhi 1928; Berenson 1936) but by a painter of his circle. Paola della Pergola (1959) rightly noted that while this Head closely resembles the Virgin in the Madrid painting it is certainly not a copy: a certain hardness in the rendering of the face, hair and garment is in fact distant from Pippi’s typical grace, such that we can exclude the possibility of his hand in the work. It is rather likely that this is the product of an artist who was clearly influenced by Raphael’s manner and at the same time familiar with Lombard models, as is suggested by the similarity between the face here and that of Leda in the Florentine painting by Leonardo’s circle (Leda and the Swan, Uffizi Gallery, inv. 1890, 9953), a comparison which Della Pergola (1959) had already pointed to.

In the 2006 catalogue of images of the Galleria Borghese, Kristina Herrmann Fiore once again proposed an attribution to Giulio Romano.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 319;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 182;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 213;
  • B. Berenson, Pitture Italiane del Rinascimento, Milano 1936, p. 224;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 92;
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (II), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVIII, 1964, p. 457;
  • 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. 123.