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Madonna and Child

Batoni Pompeo Girolamo

(Lucca 1708 - Rome 1787)

This canvas, intended for private devotion, was painted in about 1740 by Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, the artist from Lucca. Before it was purchased by the Italian state in 1909, it had been ascribed to Carlo Maratti; yet immediately afterwards the attribution was changed to the present one, which critics have unanimously accepted in light of clear indications of Batoni’s style.

Object details

oil on canvas
cm 64 x 48

late 18th-/early 19th-century frame, with twisted ribbon fillet, lotus leaves and palmettes, 82 x 66 x 5.5 cm


Purchased by Italian state from Count Guglielmo Aluffi-Pontini, 1909.

  • 2016-2017 Senigallia, Palazzo del Duca
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1909 Luigi Bartolucci (lining)
  • 1936 Augusto Cecconi Principi (re-lining)
  • 1983 Gianluigi Colalucci


This painting is an exquisite example of Batoni’s sacred production. It is a half-length representation of the Virgin, attired in a pink gown and light blue mantle with an ochre veil on her head. She gingerly embraces the naked Child; seated on a cushion, he tenderly caresses Mary’s face with his left hand while holding an apple – an allusion to the fruit of original sin – in his right. The artist chose this motif of an exchange of affections between Mother and Son with the intent of reproducing a composition in the classical style: Batoni indeed interpreted the subject by drawing inspiration from similar works by Raphael, Correggio and especially Guido Reni, his main points of reference in his own development. While the canvas also shows the influence of Sebastiano Conca and Francesco Trevisani, it is in particular reminiscent of the style of Carlo Maratti, to whom in fact critics had ascribed the work prior to its purchase by the Italian state in 1909. The painting entered the Borghese Collection thanks to the efforts of Director Giulio Cantalamessa, who proposed acquiring it from Count Guglielmo Aluffi-Pontini. The attribution to Maratti was immediately changed to the present one, which critics have since unanimously accepted, given the clear evidence of Batoni’s style: the polished, almost porcelain-like rendering of the figures, the pink tint of their flesh, and the light, bright colouring.

At the age of 20, Pompeo Batoni moved to Rome, soon finding himself at the centre of the artistic life of the city. He acquired notable fame among foreign travellers, thanks above all to his excellent skills as a portraitist. The rest of his pictorial production can be divided into works of a profane character, mostly mythological subjects, and of a religious nature, often with Mary as protagonist, as in the work in question. The dimensions of our canvas indicate that it was intended for private devotion, as was the case with many similar works painted by the artist.

Paola Della Pergola proposed dating the work to roughly 1770, while Anthony Clark moved the time of its execution back some 30 years, suggesting approximately 1742 (Della Pergola 1959, p. 72; Clark 1985, p. 223). In a recent monograph on the artist, Edgar Peters Bowron suggested a chronological range between 1738 and 1740 (this had already been proposed by De Angelis 1984, p. 18) on the basis of a comparison with a contemporary work, the Judgement of Solomon, whose present whereabouts are unknown: this scholar argued that physiognomic features and rendering of the clothing of some of the figures in this painting are quite similar to those of the Madonna and Child (Bowron 2016, p. 34).

Two other works have connections with the Borghese canvas: a preparatory study in sanguine, which is certainly autograph (Department of Prints and Drawings of the Uffizi, Florence, inv. no. 5785), and a replica with variations, illuminated by  candlelight and with nocturnal effects, which Della Pergola identified in a private collection in Rome. The latter work may be the same one which appeared on the Roman market in 1958 (Clark 1985, p. 223).

Pier Ludovico Puddu

  • P. D’Achiardi, Nuovi acquisti della R. Galleria Borghese, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, VI, 1912, pp. 85-87;
  • F. Pellati, I Musei e le Gallerie d’Italia, Roma 1922, p. 317;
  • H. Voss, Die Malerei des Barock in Rom, Berlin 1925, pp. 412, 648;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I: La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 225;
  • E. Emmerling, Pompeo Batoni. Sein Leben und Werk, Darmstadt 1932, p. 116, n. 101;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1948, p. 67;
  • A. De Rinaldis, La R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1948, pp. 38, 60, 100;
  • A. De Rinaldis, L’arte in Roma dal Seicento al Novecento, Bologna 1948, pp. 173-174;
  • V. Golzio, II Seicento e il Settecento, U.T.E.T., Torino 1950, pp. 741-742;
  • P. Della Pergola, Itinerario della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1951, p. 36
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 71-72, 229, n. 105
  • M.A. De Angelis, La Madonna del preziosissimo sangue di Pompeo Batoni, Roma 1984, p. 18;
  • A.M. Clark, Pompeo Batoni. A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text, a cura di E.P. Bowron, Oxford 1985, p. 223, n. 55; 
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Guida alla Galleria Borghese, 1997, pp. 105-106;
  • C. Stefani, in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 355;
  • 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. 174;
  • P.P. Quieto, Pompeo Girolamo de’ Batoni. L’ideale classico nella Roma del Settecento, Roma 2007, p. 145;
  • Maria Mater Misericordiae. L’iconografia mariana nell’arte dal Duecento al Settecento, catalogo della mostra (Senigallia, Palazzo del Duca, 2016-2017), a cura di G. Morello, S. Papetti, Milano 2016, pp. 132-133, n. 33;
  • E.P. Bowron, Pompeo Batoni. A complete Catalogue of his Paintings, I, New Heaven e London 2016, p. 34, n. 30.