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Madonna with Child and Young Saint John the Baptist

copy after Rubiales Pedro de, called Roviale spagnolo

(c.1511 - 1560)

Previously attributed to Cristoforo Roncalli and to an imitator of Francesco Salviati, the work has been identified as a copy of the painting held at the Royal Palace in Naples executed by the Spanish painter Pedro de Rubiales, the artist of Iberian origin as known as Roviale spagnolo (‘Spanish Roviale’).

A follower of Giorgio Vasari, the artist is known for the sculptural quality of his figures and that particular twisting of bodies, a style which in fact indicates the overcoming of the principle which demanded that figures should be painted by reproducing their natural proportions. This work portrays the Virgin and Child with the young John the Baptist, who are set against a landscape dominated by a wall of rock, a backdrop which lends rhythm and monumentality to the scene.

Object details

Mid-16th century
oil on panel
cm 84 x 65

Salvator Rosa, 100 x 84 x 5.5 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1833 (Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 38; Della Pergola 1955). Purchased by Italian state, 1902.


Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903 Luigi Bartolucci (pest control);
  • 1905 Luigi Bartolucci;
  • 1953 Augusto Cecconi Principi (cleaning).


The provenance of this painting is still unknown. It was only first documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection in 1833, when the Inventario Fidecommissario listed it as a ‘work by an unknown artist’. While Adolfo Venturi (1893) attributed it to Cristoforo Roncalli, Roberto Longhi (1928) ascribed it to an imitator of Francesco Salviati. Yet his idea was rejected by Paola della Pergola, who rather proposed the Veronese painter Bernardino India. This scholar noted that several characteristics which her colleagues read as indicative of the Tuscan-Roman school were in fact connected to that of Veneto, in particular to the circle of Paolo Veronese (Della Pergola 1955; Berenson 1957).

In an interesting article on the Spanish painter Pedro de Rubiales published in 1988, Maria Calì was the first critic to link this panel to the painting held at the Royal Palace of Naples, which Ferdinando Bologna (1959) had attributed to the Iberian master. As Calì pointed out, the Borghese panel undoubtedly reproduces the painting in Naples, although it is smaller and less refined than the latter, as is evident, for example, in the simplified, approximate rendering of the veil on the Virgin’s hair. Although the work is not by Roviale himself, Calì argued, it is clearly by someone of his circle, given the high quality of the replica, which in fact attests to the success attained by the Spanish master in the first half of the 16th century.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 475;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 64;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 182;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 115, n. 206;
  • F. Bologna, Rovinale Spagnolo e la pittura napoletana del Cinquecento, Napoli 1959., p. 29;
  • B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Venetian School, I, London 1957, p. 98;
  • M. Calì, Maestro Pedro de Rubiales pintor’ nelle chiese spagnole di Roma, in “Prospettiva”, LIII-LVI, 1988-1989, pp. 403-405;
  • 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. 25.