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Saint Francis of Assisi

Circle of Muziano Girolamo

(Acquafredda 1528 - Rome 1592)

First documented in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1650, this painting has been ascribed to Girolamo Muziano of Brescia. It depicts Francis of Assisi kneeling in front of a crucifix as he meditates, his eyes directed toward heaven. Here the saint expresses those ideals pursued by the Church during the Counter Reformation, when images had to be clearly rendered and made easily understandable so as to inspire piety and participation in the observer.

Object details

c. 1577-1581
oil on canvas
82 x 56 cm

Salvator Rosa, 93 x 70 x 6.8 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, room IX, no. 31; Della Pergola 1959); Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 17; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1952 - Augusto Cecconi Principi;
  • 2002-03 - Andrea Parri (restauro completo della cornice).


This canvas depicting St Francis of Assisi was first documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection by Iacomo Manilli, who saw it at the Casino di Porta Pinciana in 1650 (Manilli 1650). Since its first identification, most critics have attributed it to Girolamo Muziano (Manilli 1650; Venturi 1893; Della Pergola 1959). Two exceptions were Roberto Longhi (1928) and Ugo da Como (1930), who considered the painting too ‘weak’ to be ascribed to the master himself. While Paola della Pergola (1959) agreed that the canvas in question is less intense compared to other works by Muziano, she nonetheless deemed it right to ascribe it to him, given that to her mind it was a ‘commercial’ work executed to satisfy the great demand for devotional images. In spite of the fact that several other critics prefer to attribute the work to a follower of the artist from Brescia, we can confidently place it next to other paintings with similar subjects executed by Muziano (Tosini 2019). The work in question indeed shares the same mode of rendering the setting – which is reduced to a minimum to foreground the figure of the saint – as well as various details to which Giovanni Morelli drew attention, such as the misty eyes, the tapered fingers and the rendering of the tunic. Patrizia Tosini (2018), who agreed with the attribution to Muziano, justly noted the painting’s stylistic similarities to the apostles in the Pentecost in the Vatican and to the Ascension of Christ in the church of Santa Maria in Vallicella, particulars which constitute evidence for dating the Borghese painting to around 1581.

Antonio Iommelli

  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 113;
  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 352;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 97;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 100;
  • G. Cantalamessa, Un quadro di Girolamo Muziano, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, IV, 1910, pp. 206-207;
  • G. Cantalamessa, Note manoscritte al Catalogo di A. Venturi del 1893, Arch. Gall. Borghese, 1911-1912, n. 141;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 190;
  • U. Da Como, Girolamo Muziano, Bergamo 1930, pp. 134, 204;
  • H. Wagner, Michelangelo da Caravaggio, Bern 1958, p. 209 nota 456;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 107-108, n. 157;
  • J. Marciari, Girolamo Muziano and the dialogue of drawings in Cinquecento Rome, in “Master drawings”, XL, 2004, pp. 113-134, pp. 202 nota 191, 478;
  • 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.50;
  • P. Tosini, Girolamo Muziano 1532-1592. Dalla maniera alla natura, Roma 2008, p. 401;
  • P. Tosini, Girolamo Muziano: The Saint Jerome in the Wilderness rediscovered. With new additions to the Catalogue Raisonné (2008-2018), Roma 2019, pp. 27, 30, 32, 40, 41.