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Portrait of a Man (Pietro Metastasio ?)


Purchased in 1914 for the sum of 2,500 lire, this portrait depicts a man in three-quarter profile. Holding his left hand on his chest, he wears a refined and elegant dark suit. In the past the work was attributed to Pompeo Batoni, while the subject of the portrait was believed to be the Roman librettist Pietro Metastasio; yet critics have since called both of these proposals into question.

Object details

Dated 1762
oil on canvas
cm 56 x 47

Salvator Rosa, 74.5 x 63 x 9.5 cm


Rome, held by Girolamo Palumbo and Pasquale Addeo, 1914 (Della Pergola 1955). Purchased by Italian state, 1914.


Dated "1762"

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1914 Tito Venturini Papari;
  • 1965-66 Alvaro Esposti.


This painting entered the collection of the Casino di Porta Pinciana at a relatively recent date. It was in fact purchased by the Italian state in 1914 from Girolamo Palumbo and Pasquale Addeo. At that time, it was held to be an original work by Pompeo Batoni depicting Pietro Metastasio; for this reason, the sum of 2,500 lire was paid for its acquisition. While some critics accepted these names of the artist and subject (Giulio Cantalamessa 1914; Leonhard Emmerling 1932; Giulia Natali 1950), neither suggestion persuaded Roberto Longhi (1928), who deemed the work of be ‘of no value, full of defects, with absolutely no connection to Batoni’. Paola della Pergola (1955) and Kristina Herrmann Fiore both agreed with Longhi; the latter critic in fact published the work by an ‘unknown artist’, noting the only certain information regarding the work, namely the date ‘1762’ (Herrmann Fiore 2006).

Unfortunately, to date we do not have enough information about this work to venture hypotheses about either the artist or even the school of painting to which it belongs. We can only assert that it is one of the many portraits of famous men produced in the mid-18th century.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Cantalamessa, A proposito d’un ritratto del Batoni introdotto nella Galleria Borghese, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, 1914, pp. 359-60;
  • G. Cantalamessa, Cronaca delle Belle Arti, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, VIII, 1914, p. 91;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 226;
  • E. Emmerling, Pompeo Batoni. Sein Leben und Werk, Darmstadt 1932, p. 138;
  • G. Natali, Il Settecento, VIII, I, Milano 1950, p. 88;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 143, n. 257;
  • 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. 176.