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Our Lady of Sorrows

Mailly Simon de called Simon de Chalons

(Chalons sur Marne, notizie dal 1532 - c. Avignone 1562)

First documented in connection with the Borghese Collection in the 17th century, this painting was executed together with an Ecce Homo (inv. no. 286) by the French painter Symon de Châlons, whose signature is still legible on the back of the panel. It probably came into the possession of Cardinal Scipione Borghese during his legation in Avignon. The work shows Our Lady of Sorrows, who is portrayed against a dark background with her hands folded across her chest. Mary wears a green cloak over two veils, one red and the other white. Her attire highlights her moved expression, creating a powerful image intended to involve the observer emotionally and stimulate profound reflection in him/her.

Object details

oil on panel
28 x 22 cm

 Salvator Rosa, 41 x 32.5 x 6.7 cm


(?) Rome, collection of Scipione Borghese, ante 1633 (Venturi 1893); Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room I, nos 21-22; Della Pergola 1959); Inv. 1790, room X, nos 29-30; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, pp. 18, 20; purchased by Italian state, 1902.



  • 2009 - Illegio, Casa delle Esposizioni
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903-05 - Luigi Bartolucci (support)
  • 1996-97 - Carlo Ceccotti, Paola Tollo (support, frame)
  • 2006-07 - Paola Tollo


Together with its pendant Ecce Homo (inv. no. 286), this panel was first mentioned in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1693, when it was described in the inventory of that year as ‘a small painting [approximately one span high] with the Virgin, at no. 485, with a gilded frame, on panel, artist uncertain’ (Inv. 1693; see Della Pergola 1959). Initially ascribed to Federico Zuccari (Inv. 1790) and to the ‘school of Raphael’ (Inventario Fidecommissario 1833), the work was rightly attributed to the French artist Simon de Mailly when his signature was discovered on the back of the painting on the occasion of the transfer of both this panel and its pendant from Palazzo Borghese di Campo Marzio to the Casino di Porta Pinciana in 1891.

Some critics proposed that the work derived from one or another painting by the Lombard artist Andrea Solario: according to Gustavo Frizzoni (1899), it owes its origin to a work (formerly in the Crespi collection, Milan; today in a private collection in Zurich) that once formed part of a diptych together with an Ecce Homo, now lost; for Tancred Borenius (reported in Cavalcaselle 1912), it drew inspiration from the Ecce Homo in the Museum der Bildenden Künste in Leipzig; in the view of David A. Brown (1987), it took its cue from a work of the same subject in the Johnson Collection in Philadelphia. It is more likely, though, that both the work in question and Solario’s in Switzerland derived from either an prototype of smaller dimensions by a more skilled artist (Lafenestre 1905; Della Pergola 1959; Brown 1987; Rossi 2011) or an original by Solario, which he executed in France between 1507 and 1509, when he was in the service of the Papal legate of Avignon Georges d'Amboise; it was here that Simon de Châlons presumably made the copy (Béguin 1999). In the year 1543, which appears on the back of the panel, Mailly is in fact known to have been in the Provençal city, where he also painted The Holy Kinship (Musée Calvet, Avignon), earning the nickname ‘fabricant de tableaux pieux’ (Zarner 1996). This reconstruction, with which the present author agrees, rules out both the idea that the painter travelled to Italy – where some believe he especially came to paint the work in question – and the hypothesis that the panel derives from a contemporary print (Roques 1963). On the other hand, Adolfo Venturi’s theory (1893) that Cardinal Scipione Borghese obtained the two paintings at the time of his legation to Avignon is still possible, although it is not supported by documentary evidence.

Antonio Iommelli