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Landscape with the Assassination of Saint Peter the Martyr

Bril Paul

(Antwerp 1554 - Rome 1626)

The painting was mentioned for the first time in the Borghese collection in 1693, attributed by critics to the Flemish painter Paul Bril and dated towards the late 16th century. The panel shows the martyrdom of Peter of Verona, a Dominican preacher assassinated with his confraternity brother Domenico in the forest of Seveso. Tradition has it that, before his death, the saint dipped his finger in his own blood and wrote the word ‘Credo’ on the ground, a gesture that can be seen here in the small figure portrayed kneeling in the background.

Object details

1597 circa
olio su tavola
cm 48 x 32

Salvator Rosa, 57 x 44.7 x 5.2 cm



Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room IX, no. 30); Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 27; purchased by the Italian State, 1902

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903-1905 Luigi Bartolucci (disinfestazione dei tarli);
  • 1952 Augusto Vermehren (pulitura);
  • 1970 Oddo Verdinelli (fissaggio di piccole scaglie di colore, rimozione di piccoli vecchi restauri, verniciatura);
  • 1996-1997 Carlo Ceccotti (restauro della cornice).


This small panel painting is first documented in the Borghese Collection in 1693, when it was described in the inventory for Palazzo di Ripetta as ‘a painting measuring about two palms depicting a landscape with two men with swords chasing after two friars, panel marked no. 732, gilt frame, by Paolo Brilli’. The attribution to the Flemish painter, which was repeated in the fideicommissary lists of 1833 and confirmed by Giulio Cantalamessa (1912), was rejected by Roberto Longhi (1928) who, reviving an earlier theory proposed by Adolfo Venturi (1893), associated the work with Jan ‘Velvet’ Bruegel. In 1950, Leo van Puyvelde revived the attribution to Bril, reading the date 1597 on the painting (no longer visible), followed in 1959 by Paola della Pergola who, comparing the painting with two landscapes painted by the Flemish artist in the castle of Artena, in the province of Rome, supported the attribution to Bril, which was then accepted by all scholars and confirmed by Francesca Cappelletti (2006) in her monograph on the artist. According to the scholar, the painting’s composition, with the scene set in a boldly low foreground, and the trees with large, flat leaves call to mind two paintings formerly in the Messinger Collection (Cappelletti 2006, pp. 222–223, nos 23-24) and the paintings made by the Flemish artist in the salon of Palazzo Mattei in Rome towards the end of the sixteenth century.

There is a similar painting of a Landscape with the Martyrdom of Peter of Verona, attributed to Bril and assistants, at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan (inv. 576).

Antonio Iommelli

  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 363; 
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 385; 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 139; 
  • G. Cantalamessa, Note manoscritte al Catalogo di A. Venturi del 1893, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1912, n. 263; R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 200; 
  • L. van Puyvelde, La Peinture Flamande à Rome, Bruxelles 1950, p. 73; 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 150-151 n. 210; 
  • G.T. Faggin, Per Paolo Brill, in “Paragone Arte”, CLXXXV, 1965, p. 34; 
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 298; 
  • 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; 
  • F. Cappelletti, Paul Bril e la pittura di paesaggio a Roma 1580-1630, Roma 2006, p. 224, n. 25.