Galleria Borghese logo
Search results for
No results :(

Hints for your search:

  • Search engine results update instantly as soon as you change your search key.
  • If you have entered more than one word, try to simplify the search by writing only one, later you can add other words to filter the results.
  • Omit words with less than 3 characters, as well as common words like "the", "of", "from", as they will not be included in the search.
  • You don't need to enter accents or capitalization.
  • The search for words, even if partially written, will also include the different variants existing in the database.
  • If your search yields no results, try typing just the first few characters of a word to see if it exists in the database.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Angels

copy after Mazzola Francesco called Parmigianino

(Parma 1503 - Casalmaggiore 1540)

First documented in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1693, this canvas is a replica with variations of the Madonna with the Long Neck, which Parmigianino began in 1534 but never finished. In contrast to the Florentine altarpiece, however, this painting transforms the figure of the Virgin into that of Catherine of Alexandria, depicted with her canonical attributes: the crown on her head, the sword, and the breaking wheel, which the saint shattered during her martyrdom, according to the famous hagiographic account.

Object details

fine XVI - inizio XVII secolo
oil on canvas
cm 73 x 61

Salvator Rosa, 88.5 x 76.5 x 6 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room IV, no. 13; Della Pergola 1955); Inv. 1790, room IV, no. 56; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 9; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903 - Luigi Bartolucci (disinfestazione dai tarli);
  • 1996/97 - Paola Tollo, Carlo Ceccotti (restauro completo della tela; disinfestazione e restauro della cornice)


The first mention of this small canvas of unknown provenance dates to 1693, when it was listed among the possessions of the Borghese family as a work by Francesco Mazzola, called Parmigianino (Inv. 1693). The attribution was repeated in the inventory of 1790 and confirmed by the compilers of the Inventario Fidecommissario of 1833. The painting is a variation of Parmigianino’s Madonna with the Long Neck (Uffizi Gallery, Florence, inv. no. 230) and should not be confused with the lost work described by Domenico Montelatici in 1700 in the context of the Florentine collection: ‘the wedding of the martyr St Catherine, with the Virgin Mary hold the Baby Jesus, who takes the saint’s hand to put the ring on her finger’ (Montelatici 1700). As the description shows, the last-named work represents a different episode in Catherine’s life. In the work in question she is depicted in lieu of the Virgin, with the sword below her hand and the crown on her head. The fact that she is already wearing the ring, together with the absence of Mary and the young Jesus, makes it clear that this work cannot be the one described by Montelatici.

Regarding the artist, in 1928 Roberto Longhi proposed the name of Ludovico Carracci, dating the painting to 1580-90. His view was rejected by both Bodmer (1939), who labelled it as ‘a work by the school of Parmigianino’, and Paola della Pergola (1955), who for her part believed it to be a study, a free interpretation of the Madonna with the Long Neck by the master from Parma.

After being forgotten for decades, in 2006 the canvas appeared in the image catalogue of the Galleria Borghese as a ‘variation on Parmigianino’, which scholars believed to have been executed by the Bolognese painter Domenico Zampieri around 1610 (see Herrmann Fiore 2006). While later critics have not examined this possible attribution, it does confirm that the canvas belongs to the tradition of painting of Emilia, where works of this calibre were admired and studied by local artists, who could not avoid having to measure up to such high-quality masterpieces. In fact, Francesco Mazzola’s Madonna with the Long Neck, who here reappears in the guise of the virgin of Alexandria, has always represented an example of elegance and extravagance, which in spite of its anti-classical idiom retains that much beloved refinement which painters over the generations have sought to achieve.

Antonio Iommelli

  • D. Montelatici, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana con l’ornamenti che si osservano nel di lei Palazzo, Roma 1700, p. 257;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 87;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 88;
  • E. Müntz, Histoire de l’art pendant la Renaissance, Paris 1895, p. 581;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 187;
  • G. Copertini, Il Parmigianino, Parma 1932, p. 153;
  • H. Bodmer, Ludovico Carracci, Burg 1939, p. 142;
  • A. O. Quintavalle, Parmigianino, Milano 1948, pp. 153-154;
  • G. J. Freedberg, Parmigianino. His Works in Painting, Cambridge 1950, p. 189;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, pp. 60-61, n. 102;
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (II), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVIII, p. 451;
  • 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. 39.