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Portrait of a woman

Veneto school


The work, originally labelled as from the school of Titian, has been variously ascribed to Jacopo Palma, Vincenzo Catena, Bonifacio de’ Pitati, Girolamo da Santacroce and Bartolomeo Montagna. None of these attributions appears convincing, although the portrait is clearly of Veneto origin. The lady, in a gown with a wide square neckline, does not have any particular adornments – unlike in Carpaccio's portrait (inv. 450) – but only wears the usual string of pearls, symbolising chastity and purity.


Object details

Inventory
076
Location
Date
Second/third decade of the 16th century
Classification
Period
Medium
oil on panel
Dimensions
cm 42,5 x 34,5
Frame

Salvator Rosa (52.5 x 44 x 4.5 cm)

Provenance

Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 19. Purchased by the Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903-1905 Luigi Bartolucci
  • 1952 Augusto Cecconi Principi

Commentary

This female portrait is not recorded with certainty as being in the Borghese collection until the fideicommissary inventory of 1833, where it is ascribed to the school of Titian. The provenance of the panel cannot be traced from documents, but it seems safe to assume that it entered the collection in the second decade of the 19th century, perhaps acquired by Camillo Borghese after 1812.

The lady, whose identity is unknown, is depicted half-length, with three-quarters of her face showing. She is wearing a red dress bordered in black with a wide square neckline. Her neck is adorned with the usual string of pearls, symbolising chastity and purity, and a gold chain, the pendant of which is hidden beneath the gown, as is often the case in 16th-century Veneto portraiture, for instance in Portrait of a Woman attributed to Bernardino Licinio and held in the same museum (inv. 143).

While the stylistic and compositional features of the portrait make it simple to recognise it as of Veneto origin, it is not, however, possible to trace the artist with the same degree of certainty: the varying and often discordant attributions of critics range from Jacopo Palma (Venturi 1893) to Vincenzo Catena (Longhi 1928), from Bonifacio de’ Pitati (Heinemann 1962) to the Bergamo-born Girolamo da Santacroce (Della Pergola 1955, who supported an opinion expressed orally by Federico Zeri, Stradiotti 1976). In more recent years, the name of Bartolomeo Montagna has been put forward (not considered in the 2014 monograph), but at the moment it is deemed more sensible to classify the work as being by an unknown artist from the Veneto region (also in Herrmann Fiore 2006). As further confirmation of the painting's Veneto origin, but also of difficulty in identifying the author, there is another (slightly smaller) version from the Bardini collection in Florence and attributed to Vincenzo Catena (Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, inv. 1675), which is of higher quality than the Borghese painting and in which some variations may be seen. A further panel, formerly in a private collection in Munich, whose current location is unknown, attributed to Francesco Bissolo, can be viewed as an intermediate version between the Edinburgh and the Borghese paintings (cf. Heinemann 1962, p. 95, no. S.57). The latter can thus be considered as deriving from the other two portraits and, consequently, appears to date from between the second and third decades of the 16th century.

Pier Ludovico Puddu 




Bibliography
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese,1891, p. 12;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 73;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, R. Galleria Borghese, Roma, 1928, p. 183;
  • P. Della Pergola, Galleria Borghese. I dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 115, n. 205;
  • F. Heinemann, Giovanni Bellini e i belliniani, Venezia 1962, I, p. 228, n. V.69;
  • R. Stradiotti, Per un catalogo di Girolamo da Santacroce in Atti. Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, Venezia 1976, p. 586;
  • 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.