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Landi Gaspare

(Piacenza 1756 - 1830)

The painting entered the Borghese Collection as a donation by Baron Otto Messinger in 1919, together with the Portrait of Antonio Canova, also by Gaspare Landi, the painter from Piacenza. Signed and dated 1806, the two portraits attest to the friendship between the two artists, which Landi wished to commemorate with these candid images.

Object details

oil on canvas
60 x 47 cm

19th-century frame with cymatium moulding and acanthus leaf frieze, 80 x 69 x 8 cm


Donated by Baron Otto Messinger, 1919.

  • 1922 Piacenza, Regia Scuola Normale
  • 1926 Biennale di Venezia
  • 1931 Roma, Istituto di Studi Romani
  • 1992 Milano, Palazzo Reale
  • 2004-2005 Piacenza, Palazzo Galli; Roma, Palazzo di Montecitorio
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1948 Carlo Matteucci
  • 1952 F. Binna


Gaspare Landi’s Self-portrait entered the Borghese Collection in 1919 in the wake of a donation made by Baron Otto Messinger to the Royal Gallery, together with the Portrait of Antonio Canova (inv. no. 557) by the same artist. Because the two works have a number of elements in common, critics believe that they were conceived as pendants. Indeed the canvases are of identical dimensions and bear inscriptions on their lower portions which indicate the name of the artist, the subject and the time and place of execution. In the lower right-corner of the Self-portrait we indeed read ‘Landi painted himself. Rome, in the year 1806’. On the left side of the portrait of Canova, meanwhile, the inscription reads ‘Landi painted Canova in Rome in the year 1806’.

The painter thus executed the two portraits in the same year, probably with the intention of commemorating his friendship with the famous sculptor and their sentiments of mutual esteem. A number of elements attest to their close relationship, including Landi’s iconographic allusions – which are almost tributes – to Canova’s sculptures in his works, in particular the reproduction of the group Cupid and Psyche (Louvre, Paris) in the painting with the same subject held at the Museo Correr in Venice (Mellini 1987, p. 53; Cerchi 2019, p. 331).

On a number of occasions, Canova reciprocated with favours to his friend the painter. He recommended him to Napoleon as one of the most important artists of the time, such that Landi was chosen to participate in the decorative programme for the imperial residence in Rome. Later, Canova chose him for the prestigious chair of painting at the Accademia di San Luca, a position which Landi would hold for 15 years.

Among the other elements that the two paintings have in common, we note that the depicted figures mirror each other, with Landi looking to the right and Canova to the left. Their attire is likewise similar – each man wears a dark suit and a white ruff. The backdrop in both works is neutral, and both men are depicted half length, without any objects which allude to their respective artistic trades. Both this last-named detail and the overall informal and intimate character of the portrait of Canova support the idea that Landi’s only intention here was to pay tribute to the friendship between the two artists. This fact can be appreciated if we compare this depiction of the sculptor with other more celebratory portraits of him, conceived to foreground his great fame.

In the Self-portrait, Landi represents himself in three-quarter profile with his gaze directed at the viewer. His appearance is quite natural, while his facial expression is lively and spontaneous.

Portraits make up a significant portion of Landi’s oeuvre. Within this genre, he showed a marked ability to capture the psychological aspects of his subjects and to render a variety of expressions: the pair of Borghese portraits are exemplary instances of his talent.


Pier Ludovico Puddu

  • A. Venturi, Un ritratto del Canova, in “L’Arte”, X, 1907, pp. 59-60.
  • P. D’Achiardi, La Collection O. E. Messinger, Rome 1910 (tradotto dall’italiano da E. Barican e H. Monton), p. 89.
  • III Mostra d’arte dell’Associazione Amici dell’Arte di Piacenza e Sala Landiana, catalogo della mostra (Piacenza, Regia Scuola Normale, 1922), Piacenza 1922.
  • R. Strinati, La Galleria Borghese di Roma. Gli ultimi acquisti. Giulio Cantalamessa, in “Emporium”, LX, 1924, p. 605.
  • Catalogo della XV Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte della città di Venezia, Venezia 1926, p. 130.
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 226.
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1948, p. 70.
  • A. De Rinaldis, L’Arte in Roma, dal ‘600 al ‘900, Bologna 1948, p. 176-177.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, pp. 52-53, n. 87.
  • C. Stefani in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 353.
  • Gaspare Landi, catalogo della mostra (Piacenza, Palazzo Galli, 2004-2005; Roma, Palazzo Montecitorio, 2005), a cura di V. Sgarbi, Milano 2004, p. 180.
  • 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. 180.