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Portrait of a Woman

Attributed to Licinio Bernardino

(Venice 1485 - after 1549)

The work portrays a young woman of unknown identity. She is dressed in a dark robe and a bonnet, while she holds a white handkerchief between her hands. The painting was first mentioned in connection with the Borghese Collection in the inventory of 1693, where it is attributed to Titian. In the late 19th century, Giovanni Morelli ascribed the canvas to Giorgione, a name which was subsequently accepted by a number of scholars, who considered it either an autograph work or by a follower. Today the most convincing theory attributes it to Bernardino Licinio, an artist who absorbed the influences of Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione and whose portraiture shows the influence of Palma Vecchio and Titian. The work dates to the second or third decade of the 16th century.


Object details

secondo/terzo decennio del XVI secolo
oil on canvas
cm 84 x 79

Salvator Rosa, 115 x 96 x 7 cm


Borghese Collection, cited in Inv. 1693, room V, no. 4; Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese, 1833, p. 36. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.


Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1924 Gualtiero De Bacci Venuti
  • 1933 Tito Venturini Papari
  • 1936 Carlo Matteucci
  • 2000 Enea (diagnostics)
  • 2008 Laura Cibrario; Fabiola Jatta (painting and frame)


Of unknown provenance, this work is documented for the first time in connection with the Borghese Collection in the inventory of 1693, where it is described as a ‘portrait of a woman holding a handkerchief in her hands, no. 60, with a smooth carved and gilded frame, by Titian’. The painting is also believed to correspond to the entry of the 1833 Inventario Fidecommissario which reads, ‘Portrait, school of Raphael, 3 spans wide, 4 ½ spans high’.

In the catalogue of the Collection edited by Della Pergola (1955, pp. 114-115, no. 204), this scholar noted that the work truly caused dilemmas for critics, in particular those who studied the school of Veneto, to which critics connected the painting. Morelli (1897, pp. 250-251) ascribed it to Giorgione, in part because of the rendering of the yellowish brown bonnet worn by the woman, which the critic compared to Titian’s first works. This attribution was widely accepted, with several notable exceptions (Venturi 1913, pp. 259-260; Longhi 1928, p. 190); yet the suggestion of Giorgione or a follower of his was supported into the late 1950s (for a summary of the various positions of scholars, see Della Pergola 1955).

At present, the most persuasive attribution is that to Bernardino Licinio, first proposed by Wickhoff, and later accepted by both Fiocco (1941, p. 38) and Pignatti (1969, p. 32; 1978, p. 138). The most recent catalogues of the Borghese Collection (Stefani 2000, p. 275; Herrmann Fiore 2006, p. 50) also published the work under the name of Bernardino. In fact Della Pergola herself (1955), while listing the painting as by a ‘follower of Giorgione’, had already noted close resemblances to other works by Licinio, such as the Portrait of Ottaviano Grimani in the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna.

The naturalistic features and composure of the unknown woman depicted here recall the figures of the Portrait of His Brother’s Family, the signed work first documented in the collection of Scipione Borghese in 1613 and which is still held by the Galleria (inv. no. 115). The young woman is portrayed in a dark dress adorned by white lace along the neckline, with her hair gathered in a bonnet. The image is quite sober; yet certain elements, such as the white handkerchief and the ring on the forefinger of her left hand, suggest that she was of high social rank.

Pier Ludovico Puddu

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 310;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 101;
  • G. Morelli, Della Pittura Italiana. Studi Storici Critici: Le Gallerie Borghese e Doria Pamphili in Roma, (trad. G. Frizzoni) Milano 1897, pp. 250-251;
  • H. Cook, Giorgione, Londra 1900, p. 156;
  • E. Modigliani, The Borghese Museum and Gallery, in “The Connoisseur”, II, 1902, p. 184;
  • P. Landau, Giorgione, Berlin 1903, p. 66;
  • U. Monneret de Villard, Giorgione da Castelfranco, Bergamo 1904, pp. 44-45;
  • B. Berenson, The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance, 3a ed., New York-London 1906, p. 106;
  • G. Gronau, Kritische Studien zu Giorgione, in “Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft”, XXXI, 1908, p. 426;
  • L. Justi, Giorgione, Berlin 1908, I, p. 137 ss.;
  • L. Venturi, Giorgione e il Giorgionismo, Milano 1913, pp. 259-260;
  • G. Dreyfous, Giorgione, Paris 1914, p. 45;
  • L. Justi, Giorgione, Berlin 1926, pp. 154, 328-329;
  • F. Heinemann, Tizian. Die zwei Ersten Jahrzehnte Seiner Künstlerischen Entwicklung, München 1928, p. 32;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 190;
  • A. L. Mayer, Zur Giorgione-Tizian Frage, in “Pantheon”, X, 1932, pp. 375, 378;
  • B. Berenson, Pitture Italiane del Rinascimento (trad. E. Cecchi), Milano 1936, p. 143;
  • I. Jewette Mather, Giorgio da Castelfranco called Giorgione by G. M. Richter, in “The Art Bulletin”, XIX, 1937, p. 600;
  • D. Phillips, H.G. Dwight, The Leadership of Giorgione, Washington 1937, pp. 57, 142;
  • G. M. Richter, Giorgio da Castelfranco called Giorgione, Chicago 1937, pp. 204, 237;
  • G. Fiocco, Giorgione, Bergamo 1941, p. 138;
  • A. Morassi, Giorgione, Milano 1942, p. 185;
  • R. Longhi, Viatico per Cinque Secoli di Pittura Veneziana, Firenze 1946, pp. 25, 84;
  • B. Berenson, Metodo e Attribuzioni, ed. italiana a cura di R. Franchi, Firenze 1947, p. 121;
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, pp. 114-115, n. 204;
  • T. Pignatti Giorgione, Venezia 1969, pp. 132-133, n. 49;
  • T. Pignatti Giorgione, Venezia 1978, p. 138;
  • A. Coliva (a cura di) La Galleria Borghese, Roma 1994, pp. 58-60;
  • C. Stefani, in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 275, n. 12;
  • 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. 50.