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Portrait of a woman

copy after Bellini Giovanni

(Venice c. 1434 - 1516)

Cited for the first time in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1693, this panel shows the clear influence of Giovanni Bellini. It depicts the head of a woman, who wears an oriental-style headpiece; the portrait derives from the figure in the background of Bellini’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ, now in the Uffizi in Florence.


Object details

16th century
oil on panel
cm 30 x 20

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



Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room VII, no. 400; Della Pergola 1964); Inv. 1790, room III, no. 44; Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 23. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903-05 Luigi Bartolucci
  • 1915 Tito Venturini Papari
  • 1917 Francesco Cochetti
  • 1936 Carlo Matteucci


The provenance of this work is unknown. It appears in the Borghese documents for this first time in 1693, when it was listed among the paintings in the antechamber of ‘Her Ladyship the Princess’ as a work by Giovanni Bellini. This attribution was repeated in the 1790 inventory but changed to Pordenone in the 1833 Inventario Fidecommissario and to Bernardino Licinio by Giovanni Piancastelli (1891). For his part, Adolfo Venturi (1893) proposed the name of Vincenzo Catena, a thesis accepted by Roberto Longhi (1928), who noted dim traces of an attempt to imitate the style of Bellini. Some other critics, meanwhile, proposed that the work was a later imitation of an older painting based on a portrait by Bellini (De Rinaldis 1937).

The panel shows the head of a woman, an exact replica of the figure in the background of Giovanni Bellini’s Lamentation over the Dead Christ (Uffizi Gallery, Florence, inv. 1890, no. 943); for this reason, critics believe it to be a copy (see Della Pergola 1955; Herrmann Fiore 2006).

Noting similarities with Vincenzo dalle Destre’s Presentation of Jesus (Museo Correr, Venice, inv. no. 386), Paola della Pergola (1955) proposed that the work in question was probably executed while the painter directly viewed the Uffizi Lamentation, adding that the Borghese painting corresponded to the entry in the 1682 inventory of Olimpia Aldobrandini’s belongings which reads, ‘Dead Christ by Giovanni Bellini in chiaroscuro, on panel, 3 spans high’. If her hypothesis is correct, this Portrait could have been executed in the opening years of the 18th century (as Heinemann suggested in 1962), perhaps at the time that the Lamentation left the collection at the Casino di Porta Pinciana for that of Alvise Mocenigo, who in turn donated it to Ferdinando III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, in 1798 (A. Paolucci, in Gli Uffizi 1979, p. 195).

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 31;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 92;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 189;
  • A. De Rinaldis, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1937, p. 223;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, pp. 106-107, n. 189;
  • F. Heinemann, Giovanni Bellini e i belliniani, Venezia 1962, p. 42;
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (II), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVIII, 1964, p. 462;
  • A. Paolucci, in Gli Uffizi. Catalogo generale, a cura di L. Berti, Firenze 1979, P. 195;
  • 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.