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Pietà with Four Saints

Andrea d'Agnolo called Andrea del Sarto

(Florence 1486 - 1531)

This work was ascribed to Perugino when it was first mentioned in the Borghese inventory of 1693. Later, though, critics made the attribution to the Florentine painter Andrea del Sarto, situating it among his early works. From the left, the figures depicted here are Apollonia, who displays the pincers with a jawbone; Anthony of Padua, with the ever-present lily; Christ, in the centre, carried by the Virgin, John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene; Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary, with the habit, lily and crown; and, finally, Margaret of Antioch, portrayed with the cross and the dragon.

Object details

c. 1508
oil on panel
cm 22 x 172

16th-century frame decorated with palmettes and intertwining wicker motifs, 37 x 204 x 7 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room IV, no. 2); Inv. 1790, room VIII, no. 25; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 34; purchased by Italian state, 1902.


In basso a sinistra '198'

  • 2009 Arezzo, Galleria Comunale d'Arte moderna e contemporanea
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1981-83 Gianluigi Colalucci;
  • 2008 Laura Cibrario, Fabiola Jatta.


‘A long painting on panel, roughly one span high with a Pietà and other Saints, with a gilded frame, at no. 198, by Pietro Perugino’ (Inv. 1693): so reads the entry of the 1693 Borghese inventory that corresponds to the work in question; the number ‘198’ is indeed still visible in the lower left hand corner. On that occasion it was understandably attributed to the Umbrian painter Pietro Perugino. This name was repeated in later inventories of the villa’s belongings (Inv. 1790; Inv. Fid. 1833) and by Giovanni Piancastelli (1891). It was, however, forcefully rejected by Adolfo Venturi (1893) in favour of a more general attribution to an anonymous artist of the Umbrian school; his view was later supported by Ingeborg Fraenckel (1935), who dated the predella to roughly the 1530s.

The first scholar to rightly attribute the work to the Florentine Andrea del Sarto was Roberto Longhi (1928), a hypothesis immediately accepted by all critics (De Rinaldis 1948; Sinibaldi 1925; Della Pergola 1959; Freedberg 1961; Id. 1963; Monti 1965; Natali 1989; Stefani 2000; Herrmann Fiore 2006), with the exception of Bernard Berenson (1936), who proposed the name of Domenico Puligo, a friend of Andrea.

Taking up the attribution to Del Sarto, Sidney J. Freedberg (1963) dated the panel to roughly 1508, noting many similarities with the frescoes of the Chiostro dello Scalzo in Florence. This scholar concluded that the work could in some way be connected to the altarpiece in the church of San Gallo in Florence (Noli me tangere, Uffizi Gallery, inv. no. 516), given their shared traces of Perugino’s style with slight hints of Leonardo’s.

The panel’s oblong form, typical of predellas, has led many scholars to rightly propose that it once formed part of a larger work, from which it became separated (Monti 1965): connections have been suggested with the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden, inv. no. 76; Shearman 1965), with the lost panel of the church of the nuns of Monte Domini in Greve in Chianti (Shearman 1965; Natali 1989), and with the painting in the church of San Giusto di Pinone on Montalbano (Franklin 1997). As Antonio Natali (1989) suggested, the composition probably belonged to a Franciscan monastery – or more likely a convent of nuns – given that the painter depicted two saints of the Franciscan order (Anthony and Elizabeth of Hungary) and three female saints (Apollonia, Elizabeth and Margaret).

Recently, on the occasion of the exhibition on the Della Robbia family of sculptors in Arezzo, the central scene of the panel depicting the Pietà – a theme that became quite popular in the wake of the preaching of Girolamo Savonarola – was compared to terracotta works realised by Andrea della Robbia (Mozzati 2009). This interesting observation has led some scholars to date the Borghese composition to the first decade of the Cinquecento, when Andrea del Sarto, who had developed a close relationship with the Florentine ceramics artist, began using his models for his own works. In this case, this influence is evident in the plastic, bulky rendering of the garments. The precise date of approximately 1508 was confirmed by Antonio Natali (1989; 1998).

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 285;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 182;
  • G. Sinibaldi, Le Opere di Andrea del Sarto che si conservano a Firenze, in “L’Arte”, XXVIII, p. 153 ss.;
  • R. Longhi, La Notte del Rubens a Fermo, in “Vita Artistica”, II, 1927, p. 8 ss.;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, pp. 123, 126, 213; F. Canuti, Il Perugino, Siena 1931, p. 381;
  • J. Fraenckel, Andrea del Sarto, Gemälde und Zeichnnungen, Strassburg 1935, pp. 107, 239;
  • B. Berenson, Pitture Italiane del Rinascimento, Milano 1936, p. 409;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1948, p. 38;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 25;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 10, n. 3;
  • S. J. Freedberg, Andrea del Sarto, Cambridge Mass. 1961, p. 215;
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (II), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVIII, 1964, p. 462;
  • S. J. Freedberg, Andrea del Sarto, Cambridge 1963, I, p. 6; II, p. 5;
  • R. Monti, Andrea del Sarto, Milano 1965, pp. 19, 133;
  • J. Shearman, Andrea del Sarto, I, Oxford 1965, pp. 17, 134, 197
  • S. Meloni Trkulja, in Il primato del disegno. Firenze e la Toscana dei Medici nell’Europa del ’500, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Palazzo Strozzi, 1980), Firenze 1980, pp. 58-59;
  • A. Natali, A. Cecchi, Andrea Del Sarto. Catalogo completo dei dipinti, Firenze 1989, p. 23 n. 3;
  • D. Franklin, A Proposal for Early Andrea del Sarto, in "The Burlington Magazine", CXXXIX, 1997, pp. 106-108;
  • A. Natali, Andrea Del Sarto. Maestro della 'maniera moderna', Milano 1998, p. 14;
  • C. Stefani, in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, pp. 230-231;
  • 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. 124;
  • T. Mozzati, in I Della Robbia. Il dialogo tra le arti nel Rinascimento, catalogo della mostra (Arezzo, Museo Statale d'Arte Medioevale e Moderna, 2009), a cura di G. Gentilini, L. Fornasari, Milano 2009, p. 354 n. 87.