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Ritratto di Giulia Gonzaga

Del Conte Jacopino

(Florence 1510 - Rome 1598)

Formerly preserved in the storeroom at the Museo di Torre del Garigliano in Minturno, the painting was lost during the Second World War, looted together with other artistic objects in 1943.

Critics have attributed the work to the Florentine painter Jacopino del Conte. It portrays Giulia Gonzaga, the wife of Vespasiano Colonna, who was Count of Fondi, a small town in Lazio where the wealthy, cultured noblewoman hosted a salon for erudite intellectuals. Known for her beauty and intelligence, Gonzaga frequented well-known figures of the era, including Vittoria Colonna, Reginald Pole and Bernardo Ochino, attracting the unwelcome attention of the Inquisition.



Object details

sec. XVI
oil on slate
cm 112 x 79

Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room VIII, no. 45); Inv. 1790, room IX, nos 7-8; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 36; Purchased by Italian state, 1902

  • 1937 - Mantova, Palazzo Ducale


Unfortunately, we do not have information about the provenance of this portrait. Together with the Portrait of Francesca Sforza di Santa Fiora (inv. no. 100), it is documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection only from 1693. In the inventory of that year it is described as ‘a painting of 5 spans on slate with the portrait of a woman, at no. 720’; in the past the number was visible in the lower left corner. The document attributed the work to Sebastiano del Piombo, as did the Inventario Fidecommissario of 1833. Giorgio Bernardini (1910) repeated the ascription, rejecting the name of Bronzino, which had appeared in the inventory of 1790 and was upheld by both Adolfo (1893) and Lionello Venturi (1909). For his part, Federico Zeri was not persuaded by either of these attributions and favoured instead Jacopino del Conte (Zeri 1948); his suggestion was supported by both Hofmeister (1954) and Paola della Pergola, who in 1959 published the work under the name of the Florentine painter. Later critics, most recently Hermann Fiore (2006), concurred with this view.

In an essay on Leonardo Grazia di Pistoia, however, Michela Corso (2018) proposed a different attribution, suggesting that the painting was a product of the last years of Grazia’s Roman period: influenced by contemporary experiments carried out by Jacopino, the artist from Pistoia looked with great interest at the production of Sebastiano del Piombo. The present writer is in agreement with this theory (Iommelli 2022). In an indirect way, Paola della Pergola (1959) provided support for this view: accepting Zeri’s attribution of the work to Jacopino, she noted similarities between this portrait and that of Lucretia in the Borghese Collection (inv. no. 075), which critics today unanimously recognise as by Grazia.

Antonio Sorrentino (1932) was the first scholar to claim that the subject of the portrait is Giulia Gonzaga; his opinion was supported by the curators of the Mostra Iconografica, the exhibition held in Mantua in 1937 (Giannantoni 1937; Bertelli 2014), and by della Pergola (1959). As critics have since suggested, the work in question drew inspiration from the Portrait of Giulia Gonzaga by Sebastiano del Piombo (Wiesbaden Museum, Wiesbaden; see Bertelli 2016), who depicted the noblewoman of Mantua turned to her left while holding her sable with her hand at the level of her breast: the same model was adopted for the work held in Leipzig (Bertelli 2016).

Both the success of the prototype by Sebastiano (see della Pergola 1959; Bertelli 2016) and the fact that its support material is similar to that of the Portrait of Francesca Sforza di Santa Fiora – with which the work in question has always been associated – suggest that the two paintings share a provenance from the same collection, perhaps having forming part of a wider series of portraits of beautiful, famous women, which, as is well known, were painted by established artists and reproduced in series for the most important collections of the era. According to the present writer (Iommelli 2022), the two works may have come from the collection of Camilla Orsini, widow of Marcantonio Borghese, who retired to a Roman convent following her husband’s death. Camilla was in fact the niece of Paolo Giordano I Orsini, who in turn was the son of Francesca Sforza di Santa Fiora; she may have received the portrait of her distant relative as an inheritance, which for its genre, dimensions and support material is the pendant of the portrait of the beautiful Gonzaga: as the two women were considered models of virtue for unfortunate widows of the time, they were dear to Princess Orsini.

Antonio Iommelli

  • E. e C. Platner, Beschreibung der Stadt Rom, III, Stuttgart-Tübingen 1842, p. 297;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 258;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 74;
  • G. Morelli, Della Pittura Italiana. Studi Storici Critici: Le Gallerie Borghese e Doria Pamphili in Roma, Milano 1897, p. 126;
  • G. Lafenestre, E. Richtenberger, La peinture en Europe. Rome. Les Musées, les Collections particulières, les Palais, Paris 1905, p. 14;
  • P. D’Achiardi, Sebastiano del Piombo, Roma 1908, p. 261;
  • L. Venturi, Note sulla Galleria Borghese, in “L’Arte”, XII, 1909, XII, p. 33 nota 2;
  • G. Bernardini, Di alcuni dipinti della R. Galleria Borghese, in “Rassegna d’Arte”, X, 1910, p. 145;
  • H. Schulze, Die Werke Angelo Bronzino, Strassburg 1911, pp. XXVIII, XXXVII;
  • J. M. Clapp, Jacopo Carucci da Pontormo, His Life and Work, with a Foreword by Frank Jewett Mather Jr., New Haven 1916, p. 230;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 183;
  • A. Mc Comb, Angelo Bronzino, his Life and Works, Cambridge 1928, p. 118;
  • A. Sorrentino, in “L'Illustrazione Italiana”, 6 nov. 1932;
  • A. Venturi, Storia dell'Arte Italiana, IX-6, Roma 1955, p. 75;
  • N. Giannantoni, in Mostra Iconografica Gonzagehesca, catalogo della mostra (Mantova, Palazzo Ducale, 1937), Mantova 1937, p. 62, n. 278;
  • L. Düssler, Sebastiano del Piombo, Basel 1942, p. 119;
  • R. Pallucchini, Sebastian Veneziano (Fra' Sebastiano del Piombo), Milano 1944, p. 135 nota 17;
  • F. Zeri, “Me Pinxit”, in “Proporzioni”, II, 1948, p. 25 nota 2;
  • I. Hofmeister, A Portrait by Jacopino del Conte in the Borghese Gallery, in “Marsyas”, VI, 1950-1953, New York 1954, p. 36 nota 2;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 28, n. 32;
  • 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. 30;
  • P. Bertelli, Immagini sovrane. La Mostra Iconografica Gonzaghesca del 1937, Mantova 2014, pp. 76-78, 102 n. 121, 163 n. 124, 172, 201-203, 207-208, 240, 270, 340, 343;
  • P. Bertelli, Giulia Gonzaga (1513-1566). L'immagine di una signora del Rinascimento. Un approccio iconografico, in Atti della Accademia Roveretana degli Agiati, VI, 2016, pp. 30, 45-46;
  • M. Corso, Le opere e i giorni di Leonardo Grazia da Pistoia tra Lucca, Roma e Napoli, in "Proporzioni", I, 2018, pp. 55, 66 nota 89.