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Portrait of a man

lombard school

First documented in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1833, the painting has been attributed to an anonymous artist of the Lombard school who was active around the first half of the 16th century and was particularly open to northern European influences.

The portrayed figure is a thin man dressed in black who has some connection to the objects on the table, including several sheets of paper which most likely allude to his cultural background.

Object details

prima metà del XVI secolo
oil on panel
cm 27 x 20

19th-century gilded polyptych, 36.5 x 99 x 6 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1833 (Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 20); purchased by Italian state, 1902

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903 - Luigi Bartolucci (disinfestazione dai tarli)


The provenance of this work is still unknown. It is first documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection in 1833, when it was listed in the Inventario Fidecommissario as a work by Andrea Sacchi. This attribution was maintained until Giovanni Piancastelli (1891) but rejected by Adolfo Venturi (1893) in favour of Bartolomeo Schedoni. Yet this theory was in turn  contested by both Moschini (1927) and Roberto Longhi (1928), with the latter critic ascribing the work to an artist from northern Italy, ‘in the direction of Bergamo and Cremona’. His opinion was accepted by Paola della Pergola (1955) and later by Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2006).

Della Pergola (1955) described the work as ‘very refined, of a naturalism open to northern European influences’. It depicts a man of unknown identity in three-quarter pose, whose figure indeed shows a certain similarity to paintings of the Lombard school, in line with the most probable hypotheses put forth by critics thus far. In this light, we might conjecture that if Longhi’s suggestion of a connection with Cremona turns out to be true its provenance may be the collection of Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati. The Milanese ecclesiastic hailed from a noble family originally from Cremona, where he was bishop from 1607 to 1610. As is known, Sfondrati gave some 70 paintings to Cardinal Scipione, although we do not possess a list of these.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 343;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 91;
  • V. Moschini, Bartolomeo Schedoni, in “L’Arte”, XL, 1927, p. 148;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 189;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, pp. 80-81, n. 143;
  • 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. 42.