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Portrait of a Youth

Bigordi Ridolfo called Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio

(Florence 1483 - 1561)

The first certain mention of this work’s connection to the Borghese Collection dates to 1833, when it was listed as forming part of the works held at the Casino di Porta Pinciana. It was variously attributed to Raphael, the school of Perugino, Timoteo Viti and, finally, to Ridolfo Ghirlandaio. It is a half-length portrait of a young man with a landscape in the background. The subject’s features and black beret recall Raphael’s Self-Portrait in the Uffizi, a copy of which forms part of the Borghese Collection (inv. no. 400); in the past, the work in question was in fact often confused with the latter.

Object details

Early 16th century
oil on panel
cm 30 x 24,5

19th-century frame decorated with four corner palmettes, 44 x 33.5 x 5.8 cm


(?) Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room I, no. 61); (?) Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, room IV, no. 23); Rome, Borghese Collection, 1833 (Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, St. III, n. 47); purchased by Italian state, 1902.

  • 2009 Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art;
  • 2010 Tokyo, Metropolitan Art Museum.
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903-05 Luigi Bartolucci
  • 1948 Carlo Matteucci (support);
  • 2002-03 Andrea Parri (frame);
  • 2006 Micheletti/Santodonato


The provenance of this painting is still unknown. The suggestion put forth by Paola della Pergola (1959; 1963; 1964) that the portrait came from the collection of the elder Olimpia Aldobrandini is not tenable, as the work that this scholar identified in the princess’s 1682 inventory (‘a painting on panel with the head of a boy with long hair, one span high, by Raphael of Urbino, with a gilded frame’; Inv. Olimpia Aldobrandini 1682 in Della Pergola 1963; Della Pergola 1964) corresponds to the copy of Raphael’s famous Self-Portrait (Uffizi Gallery, Florence), which still forms part of the Borghese Collection (inv. no. 400).

Given the impossibility of supporting Della Pergola’s theory, the most certain information we have concerning the work dates to 1833, when it is described in the Inventario Fidecommissario as a ‘portrait of Raphael, painted by Timoteo of Urbino’, a name which Passavanti (1860) more precisely indicated as that of Timoteo Viti. This attribution was, however, rejected by Cavalcaselle (1891) in favour of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio. While both Adolfo Venturi and Giovanni Morelli dissented – the former proposed the ‘circle of Perugino’, the latter Domenico Alfani (see Della Pergola 1959) – all subsequent critics have concurred with Cavalcaselle’s theory (Longhi 1928; De Rinaldis 1935; Della Pergola 1959; Herrmann Fiore 2006).

In 1968 Brigitte Heinzi confirmed the attribution to the Florentine painter, son of the famous Domenico. According to Giorgio Vasari, Ridolfo enjoyed Raphael’s esteem and friendship and finished some of his works, such as the La Belle Jardinière (Louvre Museum, Paris; Chiarini 1968).

Antonio Iommelli

  • J. D. Passavant, Raphaël d’Urbin et son père Giovanni Santi, I, Paris 1860, p. 46;
  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 349;
  • J. A. Crowe, G.B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in North Italy, III, London 1891, p. 428;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 292;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 193;
  • H. Ullmann, II Museo e la Galleria Borghese, in “Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft”, XVII, 1894, p. 161;
  • J. A. Crowe, G. B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in Italy, a cura di B. Borenius, IV, London 1914, p. 152;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 216;
  • A. De Rinaldis, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1935, p. 25;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 29;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 49-50;
  • P. Della Pergola, Gli Inventari Aldobrandini: l’Inventario del 1682 (II), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXI, 1963, p. 32;
  • M. Chiarini, Bigordi, Ridolfo, detto Ghirlandaio, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, X, 1968, ad vocem;
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (II), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVIII, 1964, p. 464;
  • B. Heinzi, Eine Kopie Ridolfo del Ghirlandaios nach einem Verschollen Werk Raffaels, in “Pantheon”, XXVI, 1968, pp. 55-59;
  • C. Stefani, in Galleria Borghese, a cura di P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Milano 2000, p. 224;
  • 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. 399;
  • M. Gianandrea, in Galleria Borghese. The splendid collection of a noble family, catalogo della mostra (Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art, 2009; Tokyo, Metropolitan Art Museum, 2010), a cura di C.M. Strinati, A. Mastroianni, F. Papi, Kyoto 2009, p. 90, n. 12.