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Portrait of a Magistrate

tuscan school

The compositional arrangement of this portrait allows us to connect it to more famous models by Bronzino; at the same time, the rendering of the subject and the ingenuity of several aspects of the artist’s approach suggest that it may be an older work. The toga allows us to identify the man as a magistrate; he holds a letter in his hand, on which we can read several words whose interpretation is problematic

Object details

Prima metà del secolo XVI
oil on panel
cm 97 x 75

Salvator Rosa ( 117 x 96.5 x 7 cm)



Rome, Borghese Collection, 1833 (Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 28); purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903 - Luigi Bartolucci (disinfestazione dei tarli)
  • 1952 - Augusto Cecconi Principi, stuccatura delle parti cadute, verniciatura


The provenance of this work is still unknown. Its presence in the Borghese Collection is documented beginning in 1833, as it can be identified in the lists of the Inventario Fidecommissario as the panel ascribed to Bronzino. This attribution was accepted with some reservations by Adolfo Venturi (1893) but rejected by Giovanni Morelli in favour of the Tuscan painter Jacopo Carucci, called Pontormo (Morelli 1897).

Bypassing the question of attribution, in 1926 Frederick Mortimer Clapp dated the portrait to between 1538 and 1543; on this basis, he deciphered the writing visible on the letter in the hand of the portrayed subject as follows: ‘A. born.le Me Fala.. Canepini... Jacini orafo... In firenze [and on the part folded over] Lui’: in 1959, Paola della Pergola corrected ‘Lui’ to the name ‘Guido’.

Della Pergola (1959) in fact published the painting as a work by a ‘Tuscan master’. Her judgement was most likely influenced by Roberto Longhi: basing his assessment on the quality of the execution, in 1928 Longhi suggested that the work could be an imitation of an older painting by Cristofaro dell'Altissimo, who was known to have made copies of many of the portraits in Paolo Giovio’s collection. Although later critics have not given consideration to his theory, it remains the most valid hypothesis on the question of attribution.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 257;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 72;
  • G. Morelli, Della Pittura Italiana. Studi Storici Critici: Le Gallerie Borghese e Doria Pamphili in Roma, Milano 1897, p. 124;
  • J. M. Clapp, Jacopo Carucci da Pontormo, His Life and Work, with a Foreword by Frank Jewett Mather Jr., New Haven 1916, pp. 154, 229-230;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928., p. 183;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 37, n. 49;
  • P. Costamagna, Pontormo, Milano 1994, p. 319, n. A108;
  • 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. 29.