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Negretti Jacopo called Jacopo Palma the Elder

(Serina c. 1480 - Venice 1528)

The painting has been documented in the Borghese collection since 1650. The subject, which became a highly successful iconographic theme during the 16th and 17th centuries, is taken from the legendary episode in Roman history which features Lucretia, the virtuous wife of Collatinus. Having been violated by the son of Tarquinius the Proud, the noblewoman preferred to kill herself, which incited the Romans to revolt and  drive out the tyrants. In this work, of which there are other known versions, the artist, through the extraordinary colour palette of Titian, brings some innovations to his training based on the models of Bellini and Giorgione.

Object details

c. 1515
oil on panel
cm 71,5 x 59

Rome, collezione Borghese, 1650 (Manilli 1650, p. 109; Roma, collezione Borghese, 1693 (Inv. 1693, St. II, no. 88); Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 19. Purchased by the Italian state in 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1905 Bartolucci (pest control)
  • 1936 Matteucci


Mentioned in 1650 by Iacomo Manilli, who erroneously attributed it to Titian, the painting is mentioned in the inventory of the Borghese collection in 1693 again as a work by Titian (Della Pergola 1964, p. 224). The reference to Vecellio is reported in the Fideicommissary Inventory of 1833, while Piancastelli (1891) listed it more generically as a “Venetian school”. The attribution was duly returned to Palma il Vecchio by Morelli (1897) with a date around 1510-1514. The attribution to the painter and the dating to the early stage of his career were accepted by later critics, with the exception of Berenson (1906, p. 119), who considered it to be a mature work, and Gombosi (1937), who proposed a date around 1520. Della Pergola (1955, p. 125) ruled out its completion after 1515, indicating it, among the various replicas of the subject, as “not [...] among the best”. Mariacher (1968; 1975) dated the painting to after the Dresden Three Sisters, pushing the date to 1518-1520, followed by Rylands (1988), who dated it to the second half of the 1520s speaking of “mechanical execution” and suggesting an involvement on the part of the workshop.

Coliva (1994) thought it could be dated to around 1510. More recently, Savy (2013) has pointed out its derivation from models by Titian, such as the Vanity in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, and Belotti (2015, p. 132) has included it among the works belonging to the mature phase, dating it to 1525-1528.

The work depicts the Roman matron Lucretia, wife of Tarquinius Collatinus, who chose to commit suicide in order to escape dishonour after being raped by the son of Tarquinius the Proud. The young woman holds the weapon she is about to use to end her life and stares at the viewer with a calm expression that neutralises the drama of the episode. The work is part of a trend introduced by Titian and which became very fashionable, namely, representing female figures in half-length, sometimes identifiable by the attribute that accompanies them. They share physical features that reflect a florid and sensual beauty. Palma interprets the new genre in the style of Titian in luminous paintings with glazed surfaces, where the subject turns her gaze towards the viewer with an attitude that is an explicit invitation, as with the Borghese Lucretia.

Elisa Martini

  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 109
  • J. Burckhardt, Der Cicerone, III, Leipzig 1869, p. 925
  • A. Woltmann, K. Woermann, Geschichte der Malerei, Leipzig 1882, p. 734
  • P. Locatelli, Notizie intorno a Giacomo Palmi il Vecchio, Bergamo 1890, p. 64
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 63
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 87
  • G. Morelli, Della Pittura Italiana. Studi Storici Critici: Le Gallerie Borghese e Doria Pamphili in Roma, Milano 1897, p. 243
  • E. Modigliani, The Borghese Museum and Gallery, in “Connoisseur”, II, 1902, p. 175
  • B. Berenson, The Venetian painters of the Renaissance: with an index to their works, New York 1906, p. 119
  • M.E. Phillips, The Venetian School of Painting, London 1912, p. 196
  • R. Longhi, Cartella tizianesca, in “Vita Artistica”, II, 1927, p. 218
  • W. Suida, Rivendicazioni a Tiziano, in “Vita Artistica”, II, 1927, p. 209
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 187
  • A. Spahn, Palma Vecchio, Leipzig 1932, pp. 39, 43, 48, 123
  • A. De Rinaldis, La R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1935, p. 49
  • G. Gombosi, Palma Vecchio: des Meisters Gemälde und Zeichnungen in 195 Abbildungen (Klassiker der Kunst in Gesamtausgaben; 38), Stuttgart 1937, p. 80
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 125, n. 226, tav. 225
  • B. Berenson, Italian pictures of the Renaissance. A list of the principal artists and their works with an index of places. Venetian School, 2 voll., London 1957, I, p. 125
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (I), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXV, 1964, p. 224, n. 88
  • R. Longhi, Edizione delle opere complete. II. Saggi e ricerche 1925-1928, 2 voll., Firenze 1967, I, p. 338
  • G. Mariacher, Palma il Vecchio, Milano 1968, p. 72, n. 47
  • G. Mariacher, Jacopo Negretti detto Palma il Vecchio, in I pittori bergamaschi: dal XIII al XIX secolo. Il Cinquecento, I, Bergamo 1975, p. 213, n. 48, p. 234, ill.
  • P. Rylands, Palma il Vecchio: l’opera completa, Milano 1988, p. 248, n. 88, p. 111
  • P. Rylands, Palma Vecchio, Cambridge 1992, p. 231, n. 88, pp. 96-97, 105
  • A. Coliva, Galleria Borghese, Roma 1994, pp. 62-64
  • M. Lucco, Palma Vecchio (rec.), “The Burlington Magazine”, CXXXVI, 1090, 1994, p. 33
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Museo e Galleria Borghese. Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 38
  • B.M. Savy, Negretti, Jacopo, detto Palma il Vecchio, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 78, 2013
  • R. Belotti, S. Milesi, Palma il Vecchio: la diligente tenerezza del colore, Bergamo 2015, pp. 58, 132