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Portrait of a Cardinal (Antonio Maria Salviati ?)

Unknown, 16th century

Perhaps originally from the Salviati collection, this painting was first documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection in 1833. In all likelihood it depicts Cardinal Antonio Maria Salviati (1537-1602), the son of Lorenzo and Costanza Conti. The half-length portrait shows him holding a sheet of paper in his right hand. It is no doubt a replica on copper of a lost painting; it dates to the mid-1580s, probably shortly after the cultured nobleman was nominated cardinal in 1583.

Object details

oil on copper
cm 17 x 12

18th-/19th-century frame, 82 x 26 x 4 cm


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

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1952 Augusto Vermehren


Although the provenance of this portrait is not known with certainty, the remarkable resemblance of the subject to Cardinal Antonio Maria Salviati (1537-1602) as well as the dimensions of the painting – similar to those of the work on copper depicting Bernardo Salviati, also in the Galleria (inv. no. 526) – suggest that it may have come from the family of the cultured prelate, whose picture gallery was incorporated into the Borghese Collection in 1794 (Costamagna 2001). 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’.

The composition in question indeed seems to be the pendant of the above-mentioned Portrait of Bernardo Salviati, given the similarities between the two paintings which we have referred to. Roberto Longhi (1928) in fact ascribed both works to Scipione Pulzone. Federico Zeri rightly rejected this name (reported in Della Pergola 1955, inv. no. 526), as did Paola della Pergola, who made a cautious attribution to an ‘unknown 16th-century artist’ when she published the work in 1955.

In all likelihood, this small work on copper derives from an older painting. Probably dating to the mid-1580s, the Borghese composition is the product of an anonymous copyist who perhaps executed it together with the other Salviati portrait. If this is indeed the case, the two small works cannot have been made before 1583, the year that Antonio Maria Salviati was nominated Cardinal of Santa Maria in Aquiro (see relative entry in Hurtubise 2017).

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 358;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 221;
  • 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. 263;
  • 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. 167;
  • P. Hurtubise, Salviati, Antonio Maria Salviati, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, XC, 2017, ad vocem.