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Saint Rocco

Guerrieri Giovanni Francesco

(Fossombrone 1589 - Pesaro 1655)

The painting, created to surmount a door, can be dated to the period in which the painter worked in the Palazzo Borghese in Campo Marzio, commissioned in 1617 by Marcantonio Borghese.

The work bears witness to the painter's taste for observing real life, seen in the suggestions borrowed from Flemish painting and Caravaggio. The small still life in the foreground, where the meticulous rendering of details is exalted, such as the weaving in the wicker flask, is a good example of this.


Object details

oil on canvas
cm 106 x 180

Salvator Rosa, 130 x 193 x 10 cm


Rome, Marcantonio Borghese Collection, 1617 (Della Pergola 1959, pp. 95-96, no. 135); Inv. 1790, room V, no. 29; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 21; purchased by Italian state, 1902.


  • 1997 Fossombrone, Chiesa di San Filippo.
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1779 Domenico de Angelis;
  • 1933 Renato Guttuso (pulitura e restauro).


This painting was made as an overdoor for Marcantonio Borghese, who in 1617 asked Giovan Francesco Guerrieri to execute it and its pendant – a ‘St Christopher’ – to decorate one of the rooms of  Palazzo Borghese in Ripetta (Della Pergola 1956; Fumagalli 1997). The work remained here until at least the mid-17th century, given that Iacomo Manilli did not mention it in his description of the villa. By contrast, from a comment of Domenico Montelatici (1700, p. 211) we know it had been moved to the Casino di Porta Pinciana by the beginning of the following century: ‘[…] a reclined St Roch dressed as a pilgrim, leaning on his elbow, his face turned toward Heaven. With the index finger of his left hand he touches the sore on his thigh. A well-executed work’.

Listed as a work of the Bolognese school in the 1790 inventory, the painting was attributed to the Carracci circle in the Inventario Fidecommissario of 1833, an opinion accepted by both Giovanni Piancastelli (1891, p. 211) and Adolfo Venturi (1893, p. 70), who, however, also timidly proposed Giovanni Lanfranco as the artist. Giulio Cantalamessa (1912, p. 69), meanwhile, described it as ‘a poor imitation of Guercino’. In 1928, Roberto Longhi pointed to the style of Dirck van Baburen, rightly identifying elements that ‘recall Flemish art in a transitional period that mixed Mannerist and proto-Rubensian influences’. These characteristics were also noted by Aldo De Rinaldis (1937, p. 326), who attributed this St Roch to a Dutch painter. As in the case of Lot and His Daughters (inv. no. 45), Paola della Pergola (1959, pp. 95-96) put a definitive end to the debate when she affirmed that the painting in question was the work of the artist from Fossombrone, basing her conclusion on a document found in the Borghese Archive (Della Pergola 1956, pp. 225-228). Indeed, the contrasting opinions that had until then been expressed about the work’s origin stemmed from Guerrieri’s extraordinary artistic culture, which combined the experiences of various schools – Roman, Tuscan and Flemish.

The painting represents the saint from Montpellier, dressed in pilgrim’s garb, in accordance with what is written in hagiographic works. Reclining like an ordinary commoner, the healer is depicted in a moment of rest while he points to a sore, a sign of the terrible plague that forced Roch to take shelter in an isolated place along the River Trebbia. It was here that a dog took care of him, bringing him a piece of bread every day. The artist represented this subject – much beloved by the faithful – in a markedly naturalistic vein, imbuing the scene with a rustic tone. This effect was achieved, for example. by employing murky brushstrokes (see Emiliani 1997) and by using a warm light that underscores the signs that the passage of time left on the saint’s body, while also lending a certain materiality to the fabrics and still lifes in the foreground. 

A payment made to the framer and gilder Annibale Durante, dated 1618 (Della Pergola 1959; Fumagalli 1997), proves that the painting had been completed by that year.

Antonio Iommelli

  • D. Montelatici, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana con l’ornamenti che si osservano nel di lei Palazzo, Roma 1700, p. 211;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 211;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 70;
  • G. Cantalamessa, Note manoscritte al Catalogo di A. Venturi del 1893, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1911-1912, n. 69;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, pp. 26-8, 182;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Documenti inediti per la Storia della R. Galleria Borghese in Roma. III: Un Catalogo della Quadreria Borghese nel Palazzo a Campo Marzio redatto nel 1760, in “Archivi”, III-IV, 1937, p. 226;
  • R. Longhi, Ultimi studi sul Caravaggio e la sua cerchia, in “Proporzioni”, I, 1943, p. 55, n. 71;
  • V. Golzio, II Seicento e il Settecento, Torino 1950, pp. 370, 375;
  • P. della Pergola, Giovan Francesco Guerrieri a Roma, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, XLI-XLIV, 1956, p. 214;
  • A. Emiliani, Giovan Francesco Guerrieri, Urbino 1958, p. 106;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 95-96, n. 135;
  • K. Rozman, Painter Franc Kavčič/caucig and his drawings of old masterpieces, in “Zbornik za umetnostno zgodovino”, XI-XII, 1974-1976, p. 54;
  • A. Coliva, a cura di, La Galleria Borghese, Roma 1994, p. 176;
  • A. Emiliani, scheda in Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri da Fossombrone, a cura di A. Emiliani e M. Cellini, Bologna 1991, pp. 34-35, n. 23;
  • A. Emiliani, scheda in Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri da Fossombrone, a cura di A. Emiliani e M. Cellini, Bologna 1997, p. 75, n. 23
  • E. Fumagalli, scheda in Giovanni Francesco Guerrieri. Un pittore del Seicento fra Roma e le Marche, catalogo della mostra (Fossombrone, Chiesa di San Filippo, 1997), a cura di M. Cellini, C. Pizzorusso, Venezia 1997, pp. 94-95, n. 10;
  • 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. 27.