First documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection in 1693, this painting was attributed to Pietro Negroni, called Zingarello, the painter from Cosenza. It portrays a young man in three-quarter pose with a sword at his side and a refined cap decorated with a feather and a small medal on his head. The subject, perhaps a knight, leans on a table on which a letter shows the words ‘IN ROMA’
Salvator Rosa (94,8 x 77,8 x 6,8 cm)
Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room VIII, no. 62); Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 37); purchased by Italian state, 1902.
The provenance of this work is still unknown. It is documented for the first time in the context of the Borghese family holdings in the 1693 inventory, where it is described as ‘a young man with a sword at his side and a piece of painted paper which reads “in Rome”, at no. 650, gilded frame, by Titian’. This attribution was changed in the 1833 Inventario Fidecommissario to ‘school of Raphael’. For his part, Adolfo Venturi (1893) rejected both ideas, proposing rather the name of Parmigianino. At first accepting this attribution, Roberto Longhi later suggested Giorgio Vasari (Longhi 1928; 1967). His opinion, however, did not persuade subsequent critics, some of whom revived Venturi’s proposal, ascribing the work to Parmigianino’s circle (Froelich-Bum 1921; Copertini 1932; della Pergola 1955). Yet other names were also put forth: Girolamo Bedoli Mazzola (de Rinaldis 1939) and Jacopino del Conte (Quintavalle 1948).
The first critic to propose the name of Pietro Negroni, called Zingarello, was Sylvie Béguin (1988-89), who pointed to similarities between other works of his, beginning with the Nativity altarpiece in the church of San Domenico in Aversa, and the portrait in the Borghese Collection. At the same time, she noted that work in question lacks the typical elegance of the Parma school: in her view, the poignant representation of the eyes and lips suggests a connection with the Tusco-Roman style of Perino and Salviati was well as with the southern realism of Polidoro da Caravaggio. Pietro Negroni fits the description, as he was active in Rome together with Marco Cardisco (see, in this context, Leone de Castris 1996): it was in fact here that the painting was executed, as the writing on the paper – ‘IN ROMA’ – indicates. Béguin dated the work to the early 1530s.
While Kristina Hermann Fiore (2006) was not persuaded, Béguin’s theory was accepted by Pierluigi Leone de Castris in 1996 and confirmed in 2006 in the context of the catalogue for the exhibition Titian and Court Portraits from Raphael to Carracci, held in Naples. According to de Castris, the portrait in the Borghese Collection is a ‘rare trace’ of the artist’s secular production, revealing his fascination with experiments of Polidoro during his Messina period. The work further betrays the influence of Cardisco’s idiom as well as the painter’s interest in ‘contemporary works by Flemish painters in Rome, such as Scorel and Heemskerk’ (see Leone de Castris 2006).