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Resurrection of Christ

Pino Marco

(Siena 1517-22 - Naples after 1579)

The painting, ascribed in the old inventories of the collection to Salviati and Taddeo Zuccari, was only recognised as the work of Marco Pino in the 20th century, based on a comparison with a fresco featuring a similar subject in the Oratorio del Gonfalone in Rome. The apparition of Christ, in the centre of a mandorla of light, almost propels the other characters, surprised or frightened, into a centrifugal motion, arranged in unnatural, overwrought poses. The lively composition, notable for the clarity and splendour of the colours, reveals a painting style still replete with echoes of Michelangelo and Raphael, typical of late Roman Mannerism.

Object details

c. 1569
oil on panel
cm 131 x 97,5

Borghese Collection, pre-1650 (Manilli, pp. 82, 112); inv. 1693, room I, no. 327; inv. 1790, St. X, no. 59; Inventario fidecommissario Borghese 1833 (Mariotti 1892, p. 93, no. 35). Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

  • 1995, Roma Palazzo delle Esposizioni
  • 1995 Bruxelles, Palais des Beaux-Arts
  • 2003, Napoli, Chiesa dei SS Marcellino e Festino
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1907 Luigi Bartolucci (pest control)
  • 1914 Riccardo Buttinelli
  • 1977 Gianluigi Colalucci
  • 1995 Sandra Anahi Varca


In the absence of a specific description, the theme was addressed in various Biblical series along with other episodes such as ‘Noli me tangere’ or ‘The pious women at the sepulchre’. But it was above all the Italian figurative culture between the 15th and 16th centuries that created a devotional subject with the image of Christ emerging from the sepulchre, sometimes hybridising it with the image of the Ascension, with the mandorla of light, or with Christ in Limbo triumphant with a banner. The only New Testament element is Matthew’s reference (Matt.27, 62-66) to the soldiers posted by Pilate to guard the tomb, who appear in this painting asleep as well as surprised and frightened. In this case, Marco Pino chose to depict the apparition of Christ within a mandorla of light suspended over the sepulchre, which provokes a reaction of general dismay and terror in the soldiers awakened by such a portentous event.

The painting was already in the Borghese collection as early as 1650, as recorded by Jacopo Manilli, who recalled ‘a painting of the Resurrection’ in the Gladiator Room, ‘judged to be by Salviati’ and, on the second floor of the building, a ‘Resurrection of Christ is a drawing by Michelagnolo, coloured by others’, both possibly identifiable as the one under examination. In the 1693 inventory, there is a further mention of ‘a painting on canvas of the Emperor with the Resurrection of Our Lord [...] of No. 327 by Cecchini Salviati’, this time undoubtedly identifiable as our painting. Indeed, Paola Della Pergola (1959) pointed out that the number 327 was still visible in the lower left-hand corner of the work in question. The attribution to Salviati – though erroneous, but justified by clear stylistic affinities – was changed in the subsequent Borghese inventories of 1790 and the fideicommissary inventory of 1833 in favour of Taddeo Zuccari, a name ‘corrected’ by Adolfo Venturi in 1893 to that of his brother, Federico. It was only Herman Voss, in 1920, who suggested attributing the painting to Marco Pino, in light of a close comparison with the fresco of a similar subject in the Oratorio del Gonfalone. The only challenge to this attribution came later from Leo Van Puyvelde, who saw resemblances in the panel to the style of the Flemish painter, naturalised Bolognese, Denijs Calvaert (1540-1619).

An examination of the painting confirms the existence of stylistic components that bring it close to artists whose names, unsurprisingly, are those mentioned above. In fact, both Francesco Salviati with his Resurrection in the church of Santa Maria dell’Anima, Rome (c. 1550), and Taddeo and Federico Zuccari, practised a revised form of ‘Michelangiolism’, which is also evident in the fresco of a similar subject painted by Pino for the Oratorio del Gonfalone in Rome (1569) – showing evidence of the artist's first stay in Naples. While the stylistic and compositional affinities between the fresco and the Borghese panel are obvious, both works reveal a rather daring compositional cut, with the scene unfolding on an almost inclined plane, divided as if into two parts by the apparition of Christ, caught in a sort of levitating leap through the air. In the painting, however, the clarity and splendour of the colours create a less confused and huddled composition than in the frescoed version. Christ appears isolated in an mandorla of light, while the group of soldiers seems to ‘explode’ in all directions in front of him, in a disarrayed rush that leaves the centre of the scene empty, putting the fleeing figures in unusual postures. In the left foreground we see only the head of a bearded old man and the foreshortened bust of a young man holding a stick, perhaps the shaft of a spear. On the right side, a fleeing warrior has his head twisted backwards, almost trampling a comrade lying on the ground between his legs, in a pose that echoes that of Raphael's Heliodorus in the Vatican Rooms. At the side of the central sarcophagus, on the left, there is a group of figures, with a warrior on the ground, bending over his shield, which seems to echo the famous sculptural prototype of the so-called Dying Galata, seen in the Roman marble replica of the Imperial age (1st century BCE) conserved in the Capitoline Museums, taken from a Greek original of the 3rd century BCE. As already noted by the author elsewhere (Calzona 2023, pp. 16-18), this iconographic reference could suggest that the Roman marble sculpture, first mentioned in the Ludovisi inventories of 1623 and long believed to be a contemporary find, occurring during the construction works of the Villa Ludovisi, was actually discovered much earlier. This may be backed up by Caravaggio's possible portrayal of it in the St. John the Baptist in the Corsini Gallery in Rome (c.1604-1606) and, with an inverted pose and viewed from behind, in the male figure on the lower left in the monumental Neapolitan painting of the Seven Works of Mercy (c.1606-1607); cf. Leone, 2015, pp. 27-28).

Returning to our painting, the back of the soldier on the ground inspired by the Galata, as well as that of the male figure jumping over him as he runs, which, compared to the measured lines of the ancient sculptural model, also show a clear reference to the muscular volumes and exaggerated, twisting contortions of Michelangelo’s work in the Vatican. Indeed, the running man corresponds perfectly to the young man viewed from behind on the left margin of the fresco of the Conversion of Saul in the Pauline Chapel (c. 1542-1545). Finally, on the ancient sarcophagus from which the resurrected Christ emerges there is a depiction of the biblical scene of Jonah Being Swallowed by a Giant Fish, in whose belly he remained for three days before being spat back onto the shore. This was an episode identified by Jesus himself (Matthew 12:40) as a foreshadowing of his death and resurrection, and it is therefore no coincidence that Pino also represented it, in monumental form, above the Gonfalone Resurrection. Although such symbolism has always featured prominently in Christian iconography, the repetition of the same combination of subjects could suggest a possible connection between the two works, not only in chronological terms, but also in terms of commissioning. None of the other ‘Resurrections’ painted by the Sienese artist – the one in Santa Trofimena in Minori (Salerno), dated to the 1570s, the one in Santa Maria di Portosalvo in Naples or the one in Santa Maria degli Incurabili, 1570 – attain the same level of artistry as the two Roman works. Such comparisons suggest that the Resurrection in the Borghese Gallery dates from an artistic phase prior to the artist's second stay in Naples, with its painting style still full of echoes of Michelangelo and Raphael, typical of late Mannerism in Rome, and characterised by powerful forms and a clear, well-defined composition. It can therefore be assumed that it was painted for a Roman patron at a time close to the Gonfalone fresco, perhaps even earlier.

Lucia Calzona

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  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891 p.333.
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