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Portrait of a Woman (Properzia de' Rossi ?)

bolognese school

Critics have proposed that the woman portrayed here is the artist Properzia de’ Rossi, a well-known sculptor from Bologna who was active in that city during the first three decades of the 1500s. However, the presence of a small book and the complete absence of any attributes connected to her profession cast doubt on this theory. The panel can be roughly dated to the 16th century. It is most likely the product of Bolognese artistic circles, as seems to be indicated by several of its features, such as the psychological emphasis of the portrait and the attempt to capture her temperament.

Object details

metà XVI secolo
oil on panel
cm 56 x 45

Salvator Rosa ( 69 x 56 x 6 cm)



Rome, Borghese Collection, before 1902; purchased by Italian state, 1902.


Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903 - Luigi Bartolucci (disinfestazione dai tarli)


We still know very little about this painting. As Paola della Pergola (1955) wrote, the Italian state purchased the panel in 1902 from the Borghese family in lieu of another ‘far more valuable’ one whose artist was not specified. The scholar proposed that the subject portrayed here is the Bolognese sculptor Properzia de’ Rossi, a conclusion she reached on the basis of a comparison with the engraving by Giovanni Battista Cecchi published in Giorgio Vasari’s Lives (1568). Yet the absence of any kind of attribute connected to de’ Rossi’s profession renders this hypothesis uncertain; we are thus justified in not making any certain statements about the woman’s identity. The panel was probably painted around the mid-16th century and shows a clear connection to the Bolognese style: it is in these circles that we must search for its creator.

Antonio Iommelli

  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 71;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 183;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 142, n. 254;
  • 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. 28.