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Madonna and Child

Dolci Carlo

(Florence 1616 - 1686)

The painting is mentioned in the 1790 inventory with the name of Carlo Dolci, a Florentine artist specialised in sacred images that had great success for private devotion. The heartfelt sentimental style, typical of his works, has prompted critics to unanimously retain this attribution.

The canvas shows the Virgin with the little Jesus wrapped in a white cloth, blessing the viewer as he takes his first steps. The Virgin’s red dress, the glossy blue cloak and golden reflection of the haloes give the scene that graceful refinement, typical of the Florentine painter’s work.

Object details

fourth decade of the 17th century
oil on canvas
cm 88 x 71

Salvator Rosa, 104 x 87.5 x 7.5 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, room X, no. 63); Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 14; purchased by the Italian State, 1902

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1936 Augusto Cecconi Principi (rifoderatura);
  • 2008 Laura Cibrario, Fabiola Jatta (pulitura, stuccatura delle lacune, reintegrazione pittorica, vernice finale; restauro della cornice).


This painting is first documented in the Borghese Collection in 1790, when it was described in the inventory for that year as ‘Madonna and Child, Carlin Dolci’. The attribution to the Florentine painter was unanimously confirmed (Manazzale 1817; Barbier de Montault 1870; Piancastelli 1891; A. Venturi 1893; Rusconi 1906; Ferrigni 1912; Longhi 1928; De Rinaldis 1939; Della Pergola 1951; idem, 1959; Cantelli 1983; Baldassarri 1995; Stefani 2000; Herrmann Fiore 2006; Baldassarri 2009) and recently again by Francesca Baldassarri (2015), according to whom the Borghese painting was the prototype for other versions, some of which are almost identical, including the Virgin and Child in the Galleria Palatina, Palazzo Pitti, Florence (inv. OA751) and the variant at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (GG 187). According to Baldassarri, the intimate, familiar mood of the scene, the poetics of the emotions and the use of colour date the work to the 1630s (Baldassarri 1995), a period when Dolci, recoiling from the sensual paintings by Francesco Furini and followers that were popular in Florence at the time, devoted himself to depicting religious episodes, Madonnas and saints.

The painting portrays the Virgin holding the Christ Child on her knee; the Child looks straight at the viewer, rendering the image more intimate and engaging. The scene is constructed with a masterful use of light that brings out the smooth, delicate complexion of the two figures, who stand out from the neutral background. The high quality of a few details, such as the hands of the Virgin and the masterful shadow on her face and neck, reveal the artist’s familiarity with the paintings of Jacopo Vignali and Cristofano Allori, who favoured a vivid realism that is found here in the psychological and emotional rendering of the figures.

Antonio Iommelli

  • A. Manazzale, Itinerario, I, Roma 1817, p. 299; 
  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 353; 
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891 p. 280; 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 159; 
  • J.A. Rusconi, La Villa, il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Bergamo 1906, p. 90; 
  • M. Ferrigni, Madonne fiorentine, Milano 1912, p. 271; 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 207; 
  • A. De Rinaldis, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1939, p. 29; 
  • P. della Pergola, Itinerario della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1951, p. 36; 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 23, n. 22; 
  • G. Cantelli, Repertorio della pittura fiorentina del Seicento, Fiesole 1983, p. 70; 
  • F. Baldassarri, Carlo Dolci, Turin 1995, p. 45, n. 15; 
  • C. Stefani, in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 356; 
  • F. Baldassarri, La pittura del Seicento a Firenze. Indice degli artisti e delle loro opere, Turin 2009, p. 331; 
  • 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.105; 
  • F. Baldassarri, Carlo Dolci. Complete catalogues of the paintings, Firenze 2015, p. 111, n. 26.