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Landscape with Saint Christopher

Attributed to Bles Hendrick met de called Civetta

(Bouvignes? c. 1510 - after 1554)

A product of the Flemish school of around the mid-16th century, this painting depicts the story of the martyr Christopher set against a broad landscape. The saint is shown in the centre of the composition with the young Jesus on his shoulders. According to tradition, on a winter night Reprobus – Christopher’s name before his baptism – carried a mysterious boy from one bank to the other of a torrent, whose weight ran the risk of causing him to drown. When he learned the boy’s true identity, that he was carrying Jesus and with him the burden of the entire world, he converted to Christianity, taking the name of ‘Christopher’ (Greek for ‘he who carries Christ’).

Object details

1540-1550 ca.
oil on panel
cm 16 x 25

Salvator Rosa, 24.5 x 32.8 x 5 cm


Perhaps Aldobrandini; Rome, Borghese Collection, 1833 (Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 28); purchased, 1902.

  • 2012 - Illegio, Casa delle Esposizioni
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903 - Luigi Bartolucci (support);
  • 1952 - Augusto Vermehren (cleaning).


The provenance of this painting is still unknown. No certain reference to it appears in the Borghese inventories of the 17th and 18th centuries, which contain a number of small landscapes; the lack of an inventory number on the panel and the absence of precise descriptions of the subject in the inventories renders identification difficult. In 1959, Paola della Pergola suggested that the work came into the Borghese Collection through the estate of the elder Olimpia Aldobrandini; yet this is merely a conjecture that lacks supporting evidence. A more likely proposal was that put forth by Isabella Rossi (2012), who suggested that the work found its way into the collection at the Casino di Porta Pinciana through Scipione Borghese, who was nominated protector of Germany and Flanders by his uncle.

The first certain mention of the work dates to 1833, when the Landscape, together with two other paintings (inv. nos 258, 418), appears in the Inventario Fidecommissario as the product of an ‘unknown Flemish artist’, an attribution repeated in the profiles by Giovanni Piancastelli (1891). Two years later, Adolfo Venturi (1893) ascribed the small panel to Joachim Patenier. Yet this idea did not persuade Paola della Pergola (1959), who cautiously put forth the name of  Herri met de Bles, the painter from Dinant and nephew of Patenier. While the work presents certain elements that are found in other paintings by ‘il Civetta’ – who received this nickname because he signed his paintings with an owl on a tree – it does not in fact achieve that quality typical of his oeuvre, characterised by a precise rendering of details.

As Della Pergola (1959) rightly pointed out, the painting seems closely related to a drawing attributed to Matthys Cock, namely his Saint Christopher with Two Swans on the Water (Amsterdam, Van Regteren-Altena collection).

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 455;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 139;
  • L. van Puyvelde, La Peinture Flamande à Rome, Bruxelles 1950, p. 84;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 176, n. 260;
  • 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.88;
  • I. Rossi, in I Bambini e il Cielo, catalogo della mostra (Illegio, Casa delle Esposizioni, 2012), a cura di A. Geretti, S. Castri, Torino 2012, pp. 250-251, cat. 65.