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Madonna and Child Enthroned with Sts Peter and Paul

Tisi Benvenuto called Garofalo

(Garofalo or Ferrara 1476 - Ferrara 1559)

This painting was inherited from Cardinal Salviati by Olimpia Aldobrandini and later entered the Borghese collection through her marriage to Paolo Borghese. The small painting, which was probably made for private devotion, combines the different stylistic and cultural influences typically found in Garofalo’s work. The composition of the work is in fact very similar, including in terms of the figure’s positions, to paintings by Raphael. However, we can also see references to the Veneto and Ferrara milieus, as well as the strong influence of Dosso Dossi, found in the expressive drama of the two apostles and the refined palette.

Object details

1517 circa
oil on panel
cm 39x30

Rome, Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, Inv. 1603, no. 55; Meldola, Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, 1612 (Della Pergola 1962, Costamagna 2000); Rome, Olimpia Aldobrandini the younger, 1682, no. 320; Borghese collection, Inv. 1790, room I, no. 35; Inventario fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 6, n. 4. Purchased by the Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1936 Augusto Cecconi Principe
  • 1948 Carlo Matteucci
  • 1979-1980 Gianluigi Colalucci
  • 2012 Paola Tollo
  • 2019 Koinè
  • 2020 Measure3D di Danilo Salzano (laser scan 3D)
  • 2020 Erredicci (diagnostics)
  • 2020 IFAC-CNR (diagnostics)
  • 2020/2021 ArsMensurae di Stefano Ridolfi(diagnostics)


This small painting is of secure Aldobrandini provenance. Besides recent research that has clarified a stop in Meldola (Costamagna 2000), given its inclusion in an inventory previously connected to the Salviati inheritance but that has turned out to be instead one for the collection of Cardinal Pietro, there is a number on the back that corresponds to the relative work on the list of assets and the notation ‘Benve’, which clearly indicates the painter (Tarissi de Jacobis 2002).

The Borghese painting is representative of the third stage of Garofalo’s development of the theme of the Madonna and Child Enthroned, preceded by the Argenta Altarpiece (Museo civico di Argenta, 1513) and the altarpiece for the church of San Guglielmo in Ferrara (National Gallery, London, inv. NG671, documented in 1517), which seems to be the work closest to the Roman painting and therefore determines its dating (Mazzariol 1960; V. Romani in Ballarin 1994-1995). The features of this work reflect what Garofalo would have been able to see, study and learn in the Ferrara painting milieu in which he trained. The work of artists like Boccaccio Boccaccino, Andrea Mantegna and Lorenzo Costa was in fact crucial for the creation of his at once both traditional and courtly figurative image world, filtered through the eccentricity of Dosso and structured, in terms of composition and the softness of some of his painterly landscapes, on the classicism of Raphael and his Bologna followers (Fioravanti Baraldi 1993).

The work is dominated by an enthroned Madonna, her face framed by a pure white veil and her eyes lowered and timid. She holds a lively Christ Child in her arms, who plays with the keys offered to St Peter, his energetic pose contrasting with the solid, sure block of his mother seated on the royal throne. The two apostles, recognisable by their traditional attributes, are the mediators through which the viewer can access the Sacra Conversazione, in particular St Peter, who looks at the viewer and whose finger points to the Virgin, introducing us to the Marian mysteries and the divinity of Christ. This modus operandi reveals Garofalo to have been fully part of the courtly Este artistic tradition, in which gazes and gestures were used to circulate the fundamental messages of politics and religion through paintings.

Lara Scanu

  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 126
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle gallerie italiane. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, n. 213
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, n. 52
  • A. Nappi, Il Garofalo, Milano 1959, pp. 20-21
  • G. Mazzariol, Il Garofalo, Venezia 1960, p. 18
  • A. M. Fioravanti Baraldi, Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo tra Rinascimento e Manierismo. Contributo alla catalogazione delle opere dell’artista dal 1512 al 1550, 1976-1977, pp. 107-108
  • A. Pattanaro, Benvenuto Tisi detto il Garofalo. Gli anni della formazione e della prima maturità, tesi di laurea, Università di Padova, A.A. 1985-1986, II, n. 90
  • A. M. Fioravanti Baraldi, Il Garofalo. Benvenuto Tisi pittore (c. 1476-1559), Rimini 1993, n. 47
  • A. Coliva, Galleria Borghese, Roma 1994, p. 127, n. 66
  • V. Romani, in A. Ballarin, Dosso Dossi. La pittura a Ferrara negli anni del Ducato di Alfonso I, Cittadella (PD) 1994-1995, scheda 294
  • P. Costamagna, La collection de peintures d’une famille florentine étabilie à Rome: l’inventaire aprés décès du duc Anton Maria Salviati, «Nuovi Studi», 8, 2000, p. 214 n. 79
  • C. Stefani, in Galleria Borghese, a cura di P. Moreno e C. Stefani, Milano 2000, p. 259
  • S. Tarissi de Jacobis, in Il museo senza confini. Dipinti ferraresi del Rinascimento nelle raccolte romane, a cura di J. Bentini e S. Guarino, Milano 2002, pp. 160-161, scheda 18
  • S. Tarissi de Jacobis, Nuova luce su vecchie carte: l’eredità Aldobrandini e la collezione Borghese, «Proporzioni», 4, 2003(2004), pp. 160-191