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Portrait of Paul V Borghese

Attributed to Leoni Ludovico called Paduanino

(Padua 1542 - Rome 1612)

The portrait of Paul V, believed to be a copy of an original attributed to Caravaggio, was most likely painted by Ludovico Leoni, a famous portraitist of the Roman aristocracy of the time, as the mention of an inventory of Scipione Borghese dating from around 1633 seems to suggest. The work portrays the pontiff, in a three quarter bust, seated and turning his gaze toward the viewer. Over the rochet and white cassock, he wears a red mozzetta, bordered in ermine like the camauro.

Object details

inizio XVII secolo
oil on canvas
cm 144 x 126

Salvator Rosa, 166 x 151 x 8 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, ca. 1633 (Inv. ca. 1633, no. 130, published by Corradini 1998; dated by Pierguidi 2014); Inv. 1693, room I, no. 26; Inv. 1790, room I, no. 16; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 19; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

  • 1911 Firenze, Palazzo Vecchio
  • 1950 Roma, Palazzo Venezia
  • 1989 Sendai, Sendai City Museum
  • 1989 Ishinomaki, Ishinomaki Culture Center
  • 1989-1990 Tokyo, Museo di Suntory


In all likelihood, this work was painted by Ludovico Leoni of Padua, as seems to be suggested by an inventory entry – published by Sandro Corradini in 1998 and dated to roughly 1633 by Stefano Pierguidi (2014) – which describes the painting as ‘a portrait of Paul V, 6 high and 5 wide. Padovanino’. This was certainly a copy of the well-known Portrait of Pope Paul V attributed to Michelangelo Merisi. The painting in question was cited in 1693 and 1790 as a work by Pierfrancesco Mola, a name, however, that was rejected by Adolfo Venturi (1893), Hermann Voss (1910), Roberto Longhi (1928) and Paola della Pergola. In 1959 the last-named scholar published the painting, describing it as a partial copy of the portrait by Caravaggio, which today is preserved at Palazzo Borghese in Ripetta.

According to Giovan Pietro Bellori (1972), the original portrait was indeed by Caravaggio, which in 1910 Lionello Venturi identified as the work in Palazzo Borghese. His thesis was accepted by Voss (1910), among others, but rejected by Longhi (1928) and Walter Friedländer (1955). In 1959 Paola della Pergola took up Venturi’s hypothesis and published the painting in question as a derivation of Caravaggio’s work, confirming the statements in the catalogues of both the Ritratto italiano (Florence, 1911) and the Ritratti dei Papi (Rome, 1950) exhibitions. In the view of this scholar, the work in question was executed by an anonymous artist around the mid-17th century; with respect to the original, however, this painter trimmed the upper portion of the work at the height of the head, with the result that he failed to capture the spirit and expressive power evident in Caravaggio’s portrait.

Two copies of this painting were identified by Maurizio Marini (1974) in Palazzo Altieri in Oriolo Romano and in a private collection in Rome.

Antonio Iommelli


  • G.P. Bellori, Le vite de’ pittori, scultori et architetti moderni, Roma 1672, p. 208; 
  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 354; 
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 116; 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 72; 
  • H. Voss, Kritische Bemerkungen zu Seicentisten in den römischen Galerien, in “Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft”, XXXIII, 1910, p. 218; 
  • L. Venturi, Studi su Michelangelo da Caravaggio, in "L’Arte", XIII, 1910, pp. 276, 279;
  • Mostra del Ritratto Italiano dalla fine del sec. XVI all’anno 1861, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Palazzo Vecchio, 1911), Firenze 1911, p. 163; 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 183; 
  • R. Longhi, Ultimi studi su Caravaggio e la sua cerchia, in "Proporzioni", I, 1943, p. 38;
  • Catalogo della Mostra dei Papi a Palazzo Venezia, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Palazzo Venezia, 1950), a cura degli “Amici dei Musei di Roma”, Roma 1950, p. 19; 
  • W. Friedländer, Caravaggio Studies, Princeton-New York 1955, p. 219; 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 83-84, n. 117; 
  • M. Marini, Io, Michelangelo da Caravaggio, Roma 1974, pp. 405-406; 
  • S. Corradini, Un antico inventario della quadreria del Cardinal Borghese, in Bernini scultore: la nascita del barocco in Casa Borghese. catalogo della mostra (Roma Galleria Borghese, 1998), a cura di A. Coliva e S. Schütze, Roma 1998, pp. 449-456;
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 211; 
  • 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;
  • G. Papi, C. Falcucci, Sul ritratto di Paolo V Borghese attribuito a Caravaggio: critica, analisi stilistica, ricerca documentaria e indagine tecnica, in "L’essercitio mio è di pittore". Caravaggio e l’ambiente artistico romano, a cura di F. Curti, M. di Sivo, O. Verdi, Roma 2013, p. 336;
  • F. Petrucci, Pittura di ritratto a Roma. Il Seicento, III, Roma 2008 p. 619;
  • F. Solinas, Le maniere del Leoni. Un Amore dipinto e due ritratti di Don Taddeo Barberini, in Dal Razionalismo al Rinascimento. Per i quaranta anni di studi di Silvia Danesi Squarzina, a cura di M.G. Aurigemma, Roma 2011, p. 289;
  • S. Pierguidi, ’In materia totale di pitture si rivolsero al singolar Museo Borghesiano’. La quadreria Borghese tra il palazzo di Ripetta e la villa Pinciana, in "Journal of the HIstory of Collections", XXVI, 2014, pp. 161-170;
  • Y. Primarosa, Ottavio Leoni (1578-1630). Eccellente miniator di ritratti. Catalogo ragionato dei disegni e dei dipinti, Roma 2017, pp. 680-681.