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Portrait of a woman

Manner of Pulzone Scipione

(Gaeta c. 1550 - Rome 1598)

Quoted starting with Manilli, the splendid portrait is recorded as the work of Scipione Pulzone in the inventory of 1790. However, its attribution to Pulzone becomes unlikely when compared to certain works by the Master, who renders the physiognomic traits of the characters in a different way. The figure of the rich noblewoman is distinguished by the meticulous description of clothing and jewellery. The small book, with its elegantly decorated cover, seems to refer to her spirituality, reaffirmed by her serious and direct gaze.

Object details

seconda metà del secolo XVI
oil on panel
cm 76 x 56

Salvator Rosa, 94 x 75 x 6.5 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, room IV, no. 20); Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 21; purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903 Luigi Bartolucci (disinfestazione dai tarli);
  • 1905-1906 Luigi Bartolucci (disinfestazione dai tarli);
  • 1936 Carlo Matteucci (fissaggio del colore, soprattutto sul viso; ripresa delle parti abrase);
  • 1958 Renato Massi (restauro della cornice).


Though in 1650 Iacomo Manilli mentioned over sixty portraits which he had observed in the Casino di Porta Pinciana, this painting was not clearly identified until 1790, when it was recorded in the inventory as a work by Scipione Pulzone. This attribution to the artist from Gaeta, rejected by the Fidecommisso Borghese in favour of an anonymous figure close to the school of Raffaello (Inv. Fid. 1833), was later adopted once again by Giovanni Piancastelli (1891) and embraced over the following years by most critics (Venturi 1893; Longhi 1928; Della Pergola 1955; Vaudo 1976; Herrmann Fiore 2006), with the exception of Federico Zeri, who doesn’t mention the panel in his volume devoted to Pulzone (1957).

This painting depicts a rich noblewoman whose identity is unknown. The mysterious lady is wearing an extremely elegant dress, adorned by a long pearl necklace and a large pin. The garment is embellished by refined gold embroidery and a soft veil that caresses the subject’s shoulders and delicately envelops her body. In her hands she holds a small volume, possibly a book of prayers. The gold-trimmed curtain on the left is highly reminiscent of the work of the Gaetan painter, to whom in fact this panel can be referred.

Antonio Iommelli

  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 110;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 298;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 75;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 185;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1948, p. 54;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 36;
  • F. Zeri, Pittura e controriforma. L'arte senza tempo di Scipione da Gaeta, Toirno 1957 (dipinto non citato);
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 112-113, n. 166;
  • E. Vaudo, Scipione Pulzone, Gaeta 1976, tav. 48;
  • A. Donò, Scipione Pulzone da Gaeta (1545 - 1598): il pittore della “Madonna della Divina Provvidenza”, in “Barnabiti studi”, XIII, 1996, pp. 7-132, pp. 77-78, cat. 38;
  • 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. 31;
  • Scipione Pulzone. Da Gaeta a Roma alle Corti europee, catalogo della mostra (Gaeta, Museo Diocesano, 2013), a cura di A. Acconci, A. Zuccari, Roma 2013 (dipinto non citato).