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Holy Family and Saints

Follower of Tisi Benvenuto called Garofalo

(Garofalo or Ferrara 1476 - Ferrara 1559)

Scholars do not consider this to be an autograph work, noting that some elements were painted by the workshop. The saints in the painting are probably Elizabeth and Zachary on the left, next to the young John the Baptist, and Anne and Joachim, behind the Madonna.

Object details

1520 circa
oil on panel
cm 63,5 x 41,5

Borghese collection, documented in Inv. 1693, room II, no. 58; Inventario fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 11, no. 42. Purchased by the Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1906 Luigi Bartolucci (pest control)
  • 1978 Gianluigi Colalucci
  • 2019 Laura Cibrario
  • 2020 Measure3D di Danilo Salzano (laser scan 3D)
  • 2020 Erredicci (diagnostics)
  • 2020 ArsMensurae di Stefano Ridolfi (diagnostics)
  • 2020 IFAC-CNR (diagnostics)


With a backdrop that shifts from the shadow cast by a ruined building on the left to the cool light bathing the landscape on the right, this painting depicts a Holy Family that has been expanded to include the encounter between the two divine children, St John the Baptist and the Christ Child, with their respective parents. Sts Elizabeth and Zachary on the left and the Virgin, looking directly at the viewer to establish a connection with the content of the painting, on the right. Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim, are whispering to one another behind her. The other four figures in the shadows are connected to the commission rather than the episode portrayed.

The composition, which has recently been described as ‘hard-fought’ (Herrmann Fiore 2002), is as troubled as the work’s physical condition, leading some scholars to leave open the question of whether it is autograph (Fioravanti Baraldi 1993). Most specialists, however, hold that it was painted by Garofalo’s school, especially considering the spatial distribution and the inaccuracy of the proportions (Platner 1842, Venturi 1893, Longhi 1928, Berenson 1968).

Lara Scanu

  • E. Platner, Bes Chreibung der Stadt Rom, III.3. Das Marsfeld, die Tiberinsel, Trastevere und der Janiculus, III, Stuttgart 1842, p. 277
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 134
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle gallerie italiane. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 200
  • B. Berenson, Pitture italiane del Rinascimento: catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere con un indice dei luoghi, Milano 1936, p. 166
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, n. 60
  • P. Della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693, «Arte Antica e Moderna», 26, 1964, p. 223 n. 58
  • A. M. Fioravanti Baraldi, Il Garofalo. Benvenuto Tisi pittore (c. 1476-1559), Rimini 1993, pp. 136-137, n. 67
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, in Il museo senza confini. Dipinti ferraresi del Rinascimento nelle raccolte romane, a cura di J. Bentini e S. Guarino, Milano 2002, p. 174, scheda 25