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Portrait of Cardinal Bernardo Salviati


Perhaps originally from the Salviati collection, this painting was first documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection in 1833. It depicts Cardinal Bernardo Salviati (1508-1568), the son of Jacopo and grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The half-length portrait shows him holding a sheet of paper in his right hand. In all likelihood this work on copper is a copy, dating to the mid-1580s, of a lost painting by the Florentine artist Francesco Salviati.

Object details

oil on copper
cm 16 x 10

18th-/19th-century frame, 30 x 26 x 4.5 cm


(?) formerly Salviati collection, 1794; (?) Rome, Borghese Collection, 1794 (proposed); Rome, Borghese Collection, 1833 (Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 31; Della Pergola 1955). Purchased by Italian state, 1902.


Although the provenance of this portrait is not known with certainty, it is highly likely that it entered the Galleria through the Salviati family, whose picture gallery was incorporated into the Borghese Collection in 1794 (Costamagna 2001). This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the subject of the portrait is undoubtedly Bernardo Salviati (1508-1568), the son of Jacopo and Lucrezia de’ Medici. Bernardo was nominated cardinal in 1561 by Pope Pius IV (see Hurtubise 2017 for a biographical sketch). If this supposition is true, it would account for the absence of this work in all family inventories prior to that of 1833, when the Inventario Fidecommissario listed it as in the ‘manner of Scipione Pulzone’. This attribution was ingenuously accepted by Roberto Longhi (1928) but rejected by both Federico Zeri (reported in Della Pergola 1955) and Paola della Pergola, who made a cautious attribution to an ‘unknown 16th-century artist’ when she published the work in 1955.

It is certain that this work on copper derives from a lost original, referred to in our sources as the painting executed by Francesco Salviati toward the end of his career (Costamagna 1998). At a certain point the original reached Rome, where in 1704 it appeared in the inventory of Palazzo Salviati alla Lungara with this description: ‘A painting above the door that depicts Cardinal Bernardo in a half-length portrait, with a black and gold frame, by Checchin Salviati’ (Vatican Library, Salviati document collection, f. 58, unnumbered f.; cited in Costamagna 1998). If this is the case, the work in question may have been executed in roughly the mid-1580s by an anonymous copyist together with the small portrait of Cardinal Antonio Maria Salviati (post 1583; see A. Iommelli in Galleria Borghese, inv. no. 518); indeed the two works seem to be pendants, given their similar subjects, media and dimensions.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 357;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 222;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 224;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 145, n. 262;
  • P. Costamagna, Il ritrattista, in Francesco Salviati o la Bella Maniera, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Villa Medici, 1998; Parigi, Musèe du Louvre, 1998), a cura C. Monbeig Goguel, Milano 1998, pp. 47, 48, 51 n. 26.
  • P. Costamagna, La collection de peintures d'une famille florentine établie à Rome: l'inventaire après décès du duc Anton Maria Salviati dressé en 1704, in "Nuovi studi", V, 2000, pp. 177-233;
  • 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. 169;
  • P. Hurtubise, Salviati, Bernardo, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, XC, 2017, ad vocem.