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Landscape with Christ Tempted by Satan

flemish school

This work on copper is perhaps from the bequest of Olimpia Aldobrandini. It has been attributed to Jan Bruegel the Elder but was probably done by one of his circle, following the models of the Master, who imported to Italy the Flemish tradition of landscapes enlivened by little scenes recounting religious history.

Object details

oil on copper
cm 12 x 15,5

Inv. 1693, Room XI, nos. 83-84; Inv. 1790, Room VII, no. 23. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1907, Luigi Bartolucci
  • 2022, Matilde Migliorini


Paola Della Pergola speculated, though allowing for considerable margins of error, that this small landscape belonged to the set of works from the collection of Lucrezia d’Este of Urbino (1592), later becoming part of the estate of Olimpia Aldobrandini (mentioned in the inventories of 1626 and 1682). It first appeared in the Borghese collection in 1693, identifiable as one of the “two small, oval copper paintings with small villages and figures, inventory no. 154, gilded frame. Uncertain”. In 1790, this landscape, as well as four others still in the collection (inv. nos. 283, 289, 417, 473), were attributed to “Cornelio Satiro”, an artist identified by Paola della Pergola as Cornelis van Ryssen (Poelenburg of van Ryssen, according to Orbaan 1911), a Flemish painter working in Rome in 1667, when he was a member of the Bentvueghels group (Della Pergola 1959, p. 186, no. 277). Piancastelli (1891) imputed it to the Emilian engraver Ludovico Mattioli, while Venturi (1893) and Longhi (1928) agreed in leaning towards Jan Brueghel the Elder as being the artist. This view was reconsidered by van Puyvelde (1950) and, later, by Paola Della Pergola (1955) in favour of a more generic “circle of the Flemish master”, a position still accepted today.

The scene depicted is the Temptations of Christ (Matthew 4: 1-4; Luke 4: 1-3), where the subject of the composition is highlighted, within the highly detailed lake or river landscape of Flemish derivation, with the two figures of Jesus and the devil on the left. The devil is depicted in a cartoon-like manner, with the legs of a bird of prey instead of feet. In the upper right part, there is a white heron, symbol of Divine Wisdom and personification of the Messiah himself.

Lara Scanu

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 217
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 215
  • J.A.F. Orbaan, Bescheiden in Italie omtrent Nederländsche Kunstenaars en Geleerden, I, Gravenhage 1911, p. 245
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle gallerie italiane. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 223
  • L. Van Puyvelde, Peinture Flamande à Rome, Bruxelles 1950, p. 183
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 156, n. 222
  • K. Hermann Fiore, Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla Pinacoteca ai depositi, un museo che non ha più segreti, Roma 2006, p. 154