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Portrait of the Cardinal Giovanni Ricci (?)

Circle of Pulzone Scipione

(Gaeta c. 1550 - Rome 1598)

The painting is first listed in the Borghese inventory of 1790, where it is described as the ‘head of an old man’ by Scipione Pulzone; this attribution in fact supersedes an older one in favour of the German painter Johann Stephan von Calcar.

The subject portrayed here has been identified as Giovanni Ricci (1498-1574), a Sienese ecclesiastic who was nominated cardinal in 1551. Here he is shown in civilian clothing, with a black tricorn hat and a mantle with a fur collar.

Object details

metà del XVI secolo
oil on canvas
cm 40 x 34

Salvator Rosa, 47.5 x 42 x 5 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, room IX, no. 49); Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 37; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1952 - Augusto Cecconi Principi (pulitura e lievi ritocchi);
  • 2002/03- Andrea Parri (restauro della cornice).


The provenance of this work is still unknown. It is first documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection in 1790, when it was inventoried as a ‘head of an old man, by Scipione Pulzone’ (Inv. 1790). The attribution to the painter from Gaeta was repeated in both the 1833 Inventario Fidecommissario and the profiles by Giovanni Piancastelli (1891) but rejected by Adolfo Venturi (1893) in favour of the ‘Venetian school [...] in the style of a follower of Titian’. While Roberto Longhi (1928) concurred with Venturi’s proposal, Paola della Pergola (1959), supported by the oral opinion of Federico Zeri, published the portrait as by the German painter Jan Stephan von Calcar, who trained at Titian’s school and died in Italy around 1550. Yet her suggestion was forcefully rebuffed by Marta Ausserhofer, who in her monograph on the German painter (1992) judged the Borghese portrait to be distant from his style. Nonetheless, the attribution to Jan Stephan was reaffirmed by Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2006).

The man portrayed here has been identified as Giovanni Ricci (1498-1574), a Sienese ecclesiastic who was nominated cardinal in 1551. He was the owner of a field on Pincio hill, that after his death was obtained by the cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici.

Our painting shows him in bourgeois attire, wearing a heavy overcoat (“robone”) and a black tricorn. Analysing the canvas we can suppose that the painting was produced only shortly after the well-known portrait of Ricci realised by Scipione Pulzone in 1569 (Rome, Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Barberini).  The Borghese version, in fact, in addition to re-proposing the same layout, features a very elderly prelate. A detail that, among other things, dispels any hypothesis that it was produced by the Flemish painter Von Calcar, who died in 1550, at a time when Ricci would have only been in his early fifties.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 360;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 107;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 193;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 157-158, n. 226;
  • M. Ausserhofer, Johann Stephan von Calcar. Das Poträt des Melchior von Brauweiler von 1540, Kleve 1992, p. 74;
  • 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. 56.