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Portrait of Cardinal Domenico Ginnasi

Finelli Giuliano

 (Massa Carrara  1602-1603 - Rome  1653)

Elderly, with a robust appearance, Cardinal Domenico Ginnasi faces to the right with a stern, questioning gaze, his mouth open asymmetrically, as if he were whispering. The hairs of his beard are depicted in well-defined curls on his chin, while they are lighter on his cheeks, where they seem to show through the skin. Bare-headed, the cardinal wears a mozzetta, unbuttoned at the top, moved by wide folds that define the position of the arms and ending in a pronounced curve at the bottom.

The work, dated around 1630, was found in the early 20th century in the convent of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Attributed in the past to Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Alessandro Algardi, it is now instead considered to be the work of Giuliano Finelli.

Object details

1630 ca.
altezza cm 68

Donation by Direzione Generale Fondo Culto, 1911.

  • 1930 Roma, ex convento di S. Maria sopra Minerva
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1997 M.G. Patrizi


With a stern gaze and slightly open mouth as if he were whispering or praying, Cardinal Domenico Ginnasi is portrayed bare-headed, wearing a loose mozzetta with folds ending in a pronounced curve at the bottom. The face is well detailed in the beard, which has well-defined curls thanks to a skilful use of the drill, and in the facial features, with well-highlighted wrinkles that make its expressiveness vivid.

An influential and cultivated prelate of Bolognese origin, who in two conclaves - in 1605 and 1623 - came to be indicated as a possible pope, Domenico Ginnasi also distinguished himself for his artistic patronage and charitable initiatives. In Rome, in one wing of his palace on Via delle Botteghe Oscure, he had a church built, dedicated to St. Lucy or Santa Lucia, and in another wing, in 1635, he founded the Corpus Domini womens monastery adhering to the Carmelite rule (Brunelli 2001, p. 23-26). This bust probably comes from the monastery of the Ginnasie. In 1757, it followed the nuns to their new location adjacent to the church of Santissimi Pietro e Marcellino and was finally donated by them to the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, when the small community was finally moved to Fano.

The bust was found in 1911 by Giulio Cantalamessa, director of the Galleria Borghese, in the Carmelite convent of Santa Maria della Vittoria and was identified by him as Cardinal Domenico Ginnasi. This was confirmed by a comparison with the portrait that Giuliano Finelli painted for the cardinals tomb in the church of Santa Lucia alle Botteghe Oscure.

This is a work of considerable quality whose attribution has been made particularly complex by the lack of documentary or printed sources, also due to the fact that it was kept for centuries by cloistered nuns. Cantalamessa considered it to be the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini executed in 1620, and rejected the hypothesis that it could have been executed by Finelli in light of the comparison with the portrait painted by the Tuscan sculptor for the cardinals tomb (1911, pp. 81-88).

In 1916, Muñoz maintained the attribution to Bernini, but placed its execution around 1630 because of the wavy line in the lower part. This would bring it in line with the most famous portraits produced by the sculptor in those years (p. 106); the same scholar, on the basis of a comparison with a bust by an unknown artist in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, later attributed it to Alessandro Algardi (1923, p. 694). The bust was exhibited in 1930 at the 17th century Rome exhibition with the attribution to Giuliano Finelli (Mostra, p. 15, no. 48). De Rinaldis (1935, p. 34) and Della Pergola (1951, p. 51 ff.) still agree on the attribution to the Bolognese master. In 1960, Nava Cellini brought the work back into Finellis catalogue, highlighting the insistent and incised style typical of the Carrara artist (p. 15), an attribution that was confirmed by Montagu in 1999, providing evidence of the tendency to sculpt the hair in rather coarse blocks, and the meticulously executed curls of the beard made with extensive and skilful use of the drill (p. 65).

Sonja Felici 

  • G. Cantalamessa, Una scultura ignota del Bernini, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, 3-4, 1911, pp. 81-88.
  • A. Muñoz, Studi sul Bernini, in “L’Arte”, 1916, pp. 99-114.
  • A. Muñoz, Alcuni ritratti a busto del Seicento romano, in “Dedalo”, 3, 1922-1923, pp. 671-694.
  • R. Strinati, La Galleria Borghese di Roma. Gli ultimi acquisti- Giulio Cantalamessa (1), in “Emporium”, v. 60, n. 358, 1924, pp. 601-612, in part. p. 607.
  • E. Benkard, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Frankfurt amMain 1926, p. 43.
  • Mostra di Roma secentesca, catalogo della mostra (Roma, ex convento di S. Maria sopra Minerva, 1930), a cura di G. Incisa della Rocchetta, Roma 1930, p. 15, n. 48, p. 103.
  • A. De Rinaldis, La R. Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1935, p. 34.
  • A. Riccoboni, Roma nell’arte: la scultura nell’evo moderno dal Quattrocento ad oggi, Roma 1942, p. 186.
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1948, p. 86.
  • A. De Rinaldis, L’ arte in Roma dal Seicento al Novecento, Bologna 1948, p. 207.
  • V. Golzio, Il Seicento e il Settecento, Torino 1950, p. 272.
  • P. Della Pergola, La galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 51 ss.
  • I. Faldi, Galleria Borghese. Le sculture dal sec. XVI al XIX, Roma 1954, p. 10, cat. 2.
  • A. Nava Cellini, Un tracciato per l’attività ritrattistica di Giuliano Finelli, in “Paragone Arte”, XI, 131, 1960, pp. 9-30.
  • La scultura del Seicento a Roma, a cura di A. Bacchi, Milano 1996, p. 806.
  • P. Santa Maria, Finelli, Giuliano, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 48, 1997, pp. 32-34.
  • J.Montagu, I ritratti, in Algardi. L’altra faccia del Barocco, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 1999), a cura di J.Montagu, Roma 1999, pp. 61-67, in part. p. 65.
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 385, fig. 12.
  • G. Brunelli, Ginnasi, Domenico, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, 55, 2001, pp. 23-26.
  • A. Bacchi,"L’arte della scultura non habbi mai avuto homo pari a questo". La breve gloria romana di Giuliano Finelli, in I marmi vivi: Bernini e la nascita del ritratto barocco, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, 2009), a cura di A. Bacchi, T. Montanari, B. Paolozzi Strozzi, D. Zikos, Firenze 2009, pp. 136-163, fig. 5.
  • Scheda di catalogo 12/01008687; Russo L., 1983; aggiornamento Felici S., 2020.