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.

Semiramis in front of the gates of Babylon

flemish school

This painting on copper was first mentioned in connection with the Borghese Collection in 1693. Attributed to a variety of artists, the work alludes to a 16th-century engraving by Martin van Heemskerck which depicts the so-called Sepolchrum Semiramidis, visible here in the circular, three-level structure. This painting, however, is not as rich in detail as the engraving. It depicts the battle between Queen Semiramis and a ferocious lion that is obstructing her way into the city of Babylon.

Object details

1540 ca.
oil on copper
cm 28 x 33

Salvator Rosa, 36.3 x 43.5 x 4 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room VI, no. 23); Inv. late 18th century, room V, no. 4; Inv. 1790, room III, no. 43; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 27; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1952 - Augusto Vermehren (cleaning)


The provenance of this small work on copper is still unknown. It was first documented as forming part of the Borghese Collection in 1693, when it was described in the inventory of that year as ‘a painting roughly one and a half spans high with towns, churches with bell towers, a round theatre with three levels, and a queen wearing a crown on horseback who shoots an arrow at a lion, at no. 63, marked on the back of the frame, by Paul Bril, gilded frame’. While initial attributions wavered between Paul Brill and Antonio Tempesta (Inv. 1790; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833), Adolfo Venturi (1893) definitively located the work in the Flemish school. In an oral communication to Paola della Pergola (1959), Federico Zeri reached the same conclusion, noting similarities between the work in question and the series Septem Orbis Miracula, executed by Martin van Heemskerck and engraved by Philippe Galle: several of these engravings are in possession of the Istituto centrale per la grafica in Rome.

Along these lines, Della Pergola (1959) published the painting as the work of a ‘Flemish master’, maintaining that it originated from a plate engraved by Galle, although it is more sparsely decorated and does not show the date ‘1572’, which appears on Semiramis’s tomb in the original engraving. Her proposal was accepted by Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2006) and has not been called into question by critics.

Antonio Iommelli