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Saints Peter, Paul, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and Prophets

roman school

Possibly found in the Borghese collection as early as 1693, the work has been variously ascribed in the Gallery's inventories to Scipione Pulzone and Simone Cantarini. The round-shaped picture, small in size and of poor quality, is to be attributed to an anonymous Roman Mannerist painter, who was undoubtedly influenced by Francesco Salviati and Girolamo Muziano.

Object details

oil on copper
diameter 8 cm

Inv. 1693, Room XI, no. 98 (?); Inv. 1790, Room VII, no. 94; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 31. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 2022, Matilde Migliorini


Perhaps identifiable in the Borghese inventory of 1693 as the painting “with glass in front with Our Lord with the Apostles with three other figures, inventory no... (missing in original). Black frame by Scipione Gaetano” (also known as Scipione Pulzone), in the 1790 inventory document it is recorded as a “Saints Peter and Paul with other Apostles, Simone da Pesaro”. This latter attribution to Cantarini (da Pesaro) persisted up to the time of Venturi (1893), only to be rejected by Roberto Longhi (1928), who saw in this composition a Roman artist closer to Michelangelo Ricciolini, and Paola Della Pergola (1955), who noted unquestionable late Mannerist echoes in the small painting.

The support and small size would suggest that it is one of the many devotional paintings in the Borghese collection in which certain figures are recognisable from prominent symbols, St John the Baptist in the centre with a lamb, St Paul on the right with a sword and St John the Evangelist on the left with a chalice. This association is very rare and alludes to the episode involving the Apostle in Ephesus, when he was poisoned by a pagan high priest, although it did not result in his death.

The choice of such an unusual symbol also shows that this painting is from the late 16th century, particularly if one observes the figure on the right, elongated and with elegantly crossed legs, which closely resembles the style of Francesco Salviati and Girolamo Muziano.

Lara Scanu

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 209
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 217
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle gallerie italiane. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 223
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 146, n. 267
  • K. Hermann Fiore, Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla Pinacoteca ai depositi, un museo che non ha più segreti, Roma 2006, p. 156