This canvas has been in the Borghese collection since 1693. It is generally mentioned as a work by Carracci. It depicts Saint Francis of Assisi, who stands with open arms contemplating the image of a crucifix, which appeared to him in the heavens amid a glory of angels.
The saint is portrayed here with his typical iconographic attributes: the habit, the stigmata, the crown of the Rosary, the book and a skull, a typical memento mori alluding to the transience of life and the vanity of earthly things.
19th-century frame decorated with palmettes
Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room I, no. 2; Della Pergola 1955); Inv. 1790, room X, no. 53; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 10; purchased by Italian state, 1902.
This painting is mentioned for the first time in the context of the Borghese Collection in 1693, described in the inventory of that year as ‘a painting of St Francis in glory with a skull and five angels […] large-format canvas with a gilded frame. By Carracci’. Without a more precise attribution, the painting was inventoried in 1790 as a work by Agostino, while in 1833 it was ascribed to Annibale. The latter attribution was rejected by Giovanni Piancastelli (1891) and Adolfo Venturi (1893), who both preferred to catalogue it as by an anonymous painter in the Carracci circle. While essentially in agreement with this opinion, Roberto Longhi (1928) leaned toward Annibale; yet his verdict was not shared by either Heinrich Bodmer (1939), who opted for Ludovico, or by Paola della Pergola, who proposed the name of Agostino, as she did for the Extasy of Saint Catherine of Siena (inv. no. 58). According to the last-named critic, the similarities in style, colouring and taste between the Extasy and the painting in question undoubtedly point to the same artist, a view that has been accepted by critics (see Herrmann Fiore 2006).