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Madonna and Child

Provenzale Marcello

(Cento 1575 - Rome 1639)

Executed in 1600, this mosaic was donated by Marcello Provenzale to the powerful and cultured Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who in subsequent years commissioned several works to the artist, including the well-known, refined Orpheus (inv. no. 492).

Dated and signed in the lower left hand corner –‘Opus Marcelli Provenzalis de Cento A.D. 1600’ – the work depicts the Virgin seated frontally on a throne of clouds as the Queen of Heaven. She is dressed in red and light blue and holds up the little Jesus on the right, who is portrayed here in profile.

Object details

datato 1600
cm 60 x 47

Salvator Rosa, 76 x 65 x 7 cm


Rome, collection of Scipione Borghese, early 17th century (Della Pergola 1955); Inv. 1693, room XI, no. 1190; Inv. 1700, room VIII, no. 5; Inv. 1790, room VII, no. 105; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 218; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

In basso a sinistra: "OPUS MARCELLI PROVENZALIS DE CENTO A.D. 1600".
  • 1972 Roma, Galleria Borghese
  • 1999-2000 Rimini, Palazzo del Podestà
  • 2011 Uberlingen, Stadtische Galerie
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 2001 Carlo Festa.


This mosaic, signed and dated in the lower left hand corner, was first mentioned in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1693, when that year’s inventory of the belongings at the Palazzo di Ripetta listed it as ‘a work in mosaic of roughly three and a half palms with the Madonna and Child on the clouds, with a black frame, no. 144, by Marcello Provenzale’. Executed by the mosaicist from Cento in 1600, the work entered the collection of Scipione Borghese shortly thereafter. Sources cited it as a gift to the powerful prelate (Cittadella 1783; Baruffaldi 1846).

As the date of its composition tells us, this mosaic is a product of Provenzale’s early career, realised while the artist was active on the project to embellish St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Cardinal Scipione immediately noticed his exceptional talent and took him under his wing, commissioning a series of works to him, including this refined Madonna (see Della Pergola 1955; Staccioli 1971).

The composition depicts the Virgin seated frontally on a throne of clouds as the Queen of Heaven. She is dressed in red and light blue and holds up the little Jesus on the right, who is portrayed here in profile. According to Camilla Fiore (2010), the figure of Mary reveals several typical stylistic characteristics of Federico Barocci and Ludovico Carracci, whose plastic rendering of figures recalls the marble group of the Madonna of the Girdle in the church of Sant'Agostino in Cento, with which Marcello was certainly familiar. As Fiore noted, the tiles of this composition are larger than those which Provenzale used during the 1610s and are arranged in a ‘disordered’ manner to create the plays of light typical of his best works. The stones are indeed placed at different inclinations such that the light strikes them in a variety of ways, giving rise to a delicate effect of brilliance and sparkle.

Antonio Iommelli

  • L.N. Cittadella, Catalogo Istorico dei Pittori e Scultori Ferraresi e delle Opere loro, con in fine una nota esatta delle più celebri pitture delle Chiese di Ferrara, Ferrara 1783, p. 270. 
  • G. Baruffaldi, Vite dei Pittori e Scultori Ferraresi, con note di G. Boschini, II, Ferrara 1846, p. 415. 
  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 358. 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 218. 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 223. 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 62, n. 105. 
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693, in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXX, 1965, p. 208, n. 549. 
  • S. Staccioli, scheda in Opere in mosaico, intarsi e pietra paesina, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Borghese, 1971), Roma 1971, pp. 8-9, n. 1. 
  • A. Gonzales Palacios, in "Bolaffi Arte", LIII, 1975, p. 42. 
  • A. Gonzales Palacios, Provenzale e Moretti: indagini su due mosaici, in “Antichità viva”, XV, 1976, p. 27. 
  • P. Bagni, Il Guercino e i suoi incisori, Roma 1988, p. 158. 
  • A. Gonzales Palacios, Sulle sculture: l’arredo, in Galleria Borghese, a cura di A. Coliva, Roma 1994, p. 314. 
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 212. 
  • 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. 160. 
  • C. Fiore, Marcello Provenzale e l’arte del mosaico, Cento 2010, pp. 74-76, p. 105, n. 59.
  • S. L’Occaso, Provenzale, Marcello, voce in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, LXXXVI, 2016, ad vocem.