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Madonna of the Thumb

Dolci Carlo

(Florence 1616 - 1686)

Purchased in Rome in 1818, this painting is a copy of a composition with the same subject by the Florentine artist Carlo Dolci made by the painter himself. It depicts Our Lady of Sorrows, portrayed here half-length with downcast eyes. She wears a heavy blue mantle through which the tip of one of her fingers emerges. The sadness which characterises her very delicate face seems to draw inspiration from what the deacon Valerio Inghirami of Prato wrote in 1660 about this motif: ‘She is without life, only a shadow of those who live’ (Inghirami 1660; see Bellesi 2015).

Object details

c. 1678
oil on copper
28 x 21 cm

19th-century frame decorated with corner rosettes


Rome, purchased for Camillo Borghese from Ignazio Grossi, 1818 (Piancastelli 1891 in Galleria Borghese Archive AIV-4; Tarissi De Jacobis 2003); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 13. Purchased by Italian state, 1902 (stolen in 1978).


This painting depicting the so-called ‘Madonna of the thumb’ was purchased in Rome in December 1818 together with a Christ by Carlo Dolci and two other works from the Florentine dealer Ignazio Grossi for the total sum of 3,000 scudi (Piancastelli 1891; Della Pergola 1955). This information was provided by Giovanni Piancastelli in his Note manoscritte (1891), where he cites several payment receipts conserved in the Borghese Archive in the Vatican. All traces of these documents, however, have since been lost.

As Paola della Pergola (1955) affirmed, the work is a copy, perhaps by Dolci himself, of the painting with the same subject which he executed in 1678 (formerly in the de Mari collection, Genoa; today in a private collection in London; Baldassari 2015). Many versions of the original exist, including one held at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (inv. P536; M. Chiarini in Catalogo degli Uffizi 1980) and another at the Galleria Corsini (Baldassari 1995; 2015). These and other variations are often accompanied by an Ecce Homo – in this case by a Christ, also by Dolci, as confirmed in a 19th-century document. Such works were in great demand, given their fervent beauty and their immediate expressive impact. Dolci became well known for his works of this genre, producing a series of images destined for popular worship. Some of these were in turn reproduced by his many followers, among whom figured the Florentine Bartolomeo Mancini (see S. Benassai, in Bellesi 2015, p. 360, no. 86).

An engraving probably deriving from the original was made by Gaetano Simoncini (Petrucci 1953; Della Pergola 1955).

Antonio Iommelli

  • V. Inghirami, Maria Vergine addolorata: op(e)ra di Carlo Dolci In Casa del Sig.r Balì Bart(olomeo) Verzoni, Prato, Biblioteca Ronciniana, 1660 ca.;
  • A. Nibby, Roma nell’anno 1838, II, Roma 1841, p. 603;
  • E. e C. Platner, Beschreibung der Stadt Rom, III-I, Stuttgart 1842, p. 298;
  • 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. 278;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 167;
  • G. Lafenestre, E. Richtenberger, La peinture en Europe. Rome. Les Musées, les Collections particulières, les Palais, Paris 1905, p. 21;
  • J. A. Rusconi, La Villa, il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Bergamo 1906, p. 90;
  • A. De Rinaldis, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma, p. 29;
  • C. A. Petrucci, Catalogo generale delle Stampe tratte dai rami incisi posseduti dalla Calcografia Nazionale, Roma 1953, p. 115;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 24, n. 24;
  • M. Chiarini, in Gli Uffizi, catalogo generale, a cura di L. Berti, p. 248, P.536;
  • S. Tarissi De Jacobis, in Villa Borghese: i principi, le arti, la città dal Settecento all'Ottocento, a cura di A. Campitelli, Ginevra 2003, pp. 99-105, p. 107;
  • F. Baldassari, Carlo Dolci, Torino 1995, pp. 125-127, figg. 42-43;
  • 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. 112;
  • F. Baldassari, Carlo Dolci. Complete catalogue of the paintings, Firenze, 2015, p. 310 cat. 132;
  • S. Bellesi, La pittura di Carlo Dolci fra tradizione e modernità, in Carlo Dolci. 1616-1687, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Palazzo Pitti-Galleria Palatina, 2015), a cura di S. Bellesi, A. Bisceglia, Firenze 2015, pp. 40, 53 nn. 42, 43.