Documented in the Borghese collection from 1693, the painting was attributed by critics to the catalogue of Paul Bril, painted in the same years as the Martyrdom of Two Dominican Friars (inv. 263), around the last five-year period of the century.
The painting on copper depicts Christ, immersed in the Jordan River, being baptised by John the Baptist. The scene is enhanced by two angels and, in the upper right, a Preaching of John the Baptist.
Salvator Rosa, 60.5 x 50 x 5.2 cm
Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room XI, no. 19); Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 27; purchased by the Italian State, 1902.
This painting can be identified for the first time in the inventory of 1693, where it is listed at the Palazzo di Ripetta and described as ‘a painting measuring about two-and-a-half palms depicting the baptism of Christ in the River Jordan with two angels, marked on the back no. 363, on panel with a gilt frame, by Paolo Brilli’. The attribution to the Flemish painter, repeated in the fideicommissary lists, was accepted by Giovanni Piancastelli (1891) but rejected a few years later by Adolfo Venturi (1893), who associated the painting with Jan ‘Velvet’ Brueghel for the rendering of ‘small birds, flowers and butterflies’, an attribution accepted in 1928 by Roberto Longhi. In 1959, Leo van Puyvelde revived the attribution to Bril, dating the work to his early period, a view shared by Paola della Pergola (1959) as well as Francesca Cappelletti (2006), who published the painting in her monograph on the artist in 2006, dating the work to the last five years of the century. According to the scholar, the way of ‘drawing the leaves of the trees’ and setting the narrative scenes, typical of the painter, confirms the dating of the work to those years, a time when the artist worked in the vertical format, including for his prints.
A work depicting the same subject, marked with the initials PB and attributed to the artist in 1971 (Connaissance des Arts, September 1971, p. 41), was judged by Cappelletti to be of poor quality.