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The Dead Christ with Mary Magdalene and Angels

Turchi Alessandro called Orbetto

(Verona 1578 - Rome 1649)

Critics believe that this painting was executed by Alessandro Turchi, called Orbetto, between 1616 and 1617, the years in which he received several payments from Scipione Borghese for works that the documentation does not identify. This was certainly one of the first compositions painted by the Veronese artist in Rome. It is executed on slate, a type of black stone widely used in Verona that gives paintings a sparkling effect. It depicts the Dead Christ surrounded by angels and Mary Magdalene, who holds up one of his hands.

The theatricality of the gestures highlights the pathos of the scene, representing that ideal of composure and harmony to which Turchi always remained faithful during his career. The artist participated in that genre of illuminated nocturnal settings practised by  Carlo Saraceni, Gerrit van Honthorst and a number of French painters present in Rome in those years.

Object details

1616-1617 circa
oil on slate
cm 42 x 53

19th-century frame decorated with four corner palmettes


(?) Rome, collection of Scipione Borghese, 1617 (Della Pergola 1955); Rome, Borghese Collection, 1650 (Manilli 1650); Inv. 1693, room XI, no. 76; Inv. 1700, room VIII, no. 9; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 37; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

  • 1974 Verona, Palazzo della Gran Guardia;
  • 1999 Verona, Museo di Castelvecchio;
  • 2001 Roma, Palazzo di Venezia;
  • 2001 Londra, Royal Academy;
  • 2015 Roma, Palazzo Cipolla.
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1996-1997 Carlo Ceccotti, Paola Tollo (frame);
  • 2001 Paola Sannucci.


Three paintings by Alessandro Turchi, including a ‘Dead Christ on stone’ – which undoubtedly corresponds to the work in question – were mentioned by Iacomo Manilli in his 1650 account of the artworks at the Casino di Porta Pinciana. In all likelihood, these compositions came into the possession of the Borghese family in 1617, when the painter received two payment instalments from Scipione for several works which the documentation does not identify (Della Pergola 1955). It is in fact certain that Turchi was among the artists most appreciated by the cardinal, who commissioned a number of works to him: the Raising of Lazarus (inv. no. 506), Christ in the Sepulchre (inv. no. 307), the lost Saint Peter and the Servant Girl, the series of frescoes in the Casino del Barco, the Gathering of Manna for the Sala Reggia of the Quirinal Palace, and in 1619 a painting for the chapel of his villa in Mondragone.

In spite of Manilla’s account and the 1693 inventory – in which the description of the work is even more precise – this refined Dead Christ was mistakenly ascribed to Annibale Carracci in 1700, an error repeated in subsequent inventories (Inv. 1790, Inventario Fidecommissario 1833). Only in 1893 did Adolfo Venturi revive the attribution to Turchi, whose name all subsequent critics have accepted without reservations (see, most recently, Scaglietti Kelescian 2019). Dated to ‘roughly 1615’ by Roberto Longhi (1928), this work on slate betrays a certain familiarity with a painting with the same subject by Felice Brusasorzi, held today in a private collection in Rovereto (see the Deposition with Angels, in Cinquant'anni di pittura veronese 1580-1630, fig. 52). Like that painting, Turchi here arranges the scene by placing the figures in a semicircle around the beautiful body of Christ, whose pose undoubtedly alludes to Annibale Carracci’s Pietà (Museo di Capodimonte, Naples) and Brusasorzi’s Deposition with Mary Magdalene (Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona); from the latter work, Orbetto in fact took the gesture of the angel who holds up the hand of the martyr. Finally, it is interesting to note the presence of a source of artificial light within the scene, in this case the angel holding a torch: this motif was yet another borrowing from Brusasorzi’s Deposition in Rovereto.

A variant of this painting (see Dossi 2013) was mentioned in 1624 in the context of the Patrizi collection in Rome; here it was described as a ‘work of the Dead Christ with Mary Magdalene and three angels on Lydian stone, by Alessandro Veronese, with an ebony frame, 20 scudi’ (Minozzi 2000).

Antonio Iommelli

  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 107; 
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, p. 192; 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 219; 
  • R. Longhi, Galleria Borghese: il trio dei veronesi, in “Vita Artistica”, II, 1926, pp. 123-126; 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 223; 
  • C. Brandi, Disegno della pittura italiana, Torino 1930, pp. 491-492; 
  • A. De Rinaldis, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1939, p. 25; 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, pp. 121, n. 217; 
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (III), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXX, 1965, p. 209; 
  • A. Moir, The Italian followers of Caravaggio, II, Cambridge 1967, p. 112; 
  • A. Colombi Ferretti, Cinquant’anni di pittura veronese: 1580-1630, in "Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Classe di Lettere e Filosofia", IV, 1974, p. 1799-1804; 
  • D. Scaglietti Kelescian, in Cinquant’anni di pittura veronese: 1580 – 1630, catalogo della mostra (Verona, Palazzo della Gran Guardia, 1974), a cura di L. Magagnato, Verona 1974, pp. 118-119, n. 92; 
  • R. Pallucchini, La pittura veronese tra maniera e natura, in "Arte veneta”, XXVIII, 1974, pp. 138-146;
  • C. Faccioli, “L’Orbetto” pittore veronese a Roma, in “L’Urbe”, V, 1975, pp. 10-22;
  • R. Pallucchini, La pittura veneziana del seicento, II, Milano 1981, pp. 113-116; 
  • F. Cappelletti, in Caravaggio e la collezione Mattei, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, 1995), a cura di R. Vodret Adamo, Milano 1995, pp. 158-160; 
  • D. Scaglietti Kelescian, in Alessandro Turchi detto l’Orbetto 1578-1649, catalogo della mostra (Verona, Museo di Castelvecchio, 2009), a cura di D. Scaglietti Kelescian, Milano 1999, p. 100; 
  • M. Minozzi, Gli inventari della collezione Patrizi, in Le stanze del tesoriere. La quadreria Patrizi: cultura senese nella storia del collezionismo romano del seicento, a cura di A.M. Pedrocchi, Milano 2000, pp. 387, 389; 
  • C. Stefani, in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 312; 
  • F. Cappelletti, in Il genio di Roma, 1592-1623, catalogo della mostra (Londra, Royal Academy of Arts, 2001; Roma, Palazzo Venezia, 2001), a cura di B. L. Brown, Roma 2001, pp. 201-202;
  • 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. 160;  
  • H. Seifertovà, Malby na kameni-Painting on stone, Vydala Národní galerie, Praze 2007, pp. 78-91; 
  • C. Volpi, Modelli estetici ed ispirazione poetica al tempo di Scipione Borghese: i casi di Ippolito Scarsella e di Alessandro Turchi, in I Barberini e la cultura europea del Seicento, atti del convegno (Roma, Palazzo Barberini, 2004), a cura di L. Mochi Onori, S. Schütze, F. Solinas, Roma 2007, p. 63; 
  • V. Mancini, Echi caravaggeschi a Venezia e nella terraferma, in I Caravaggeschi: percorsi e protagonisti, a cura di C. Strinati, A. Zuccari, I, Milano 2010, pp. 161-162; 
  • D. Dossi, All’ombra di Scipione Borghese: Alessandro Turchi per Costanzo Patrizi e qualche altra precisazione, in "Arte Cristiana", CI, 2013, p. 461; 
  • L. Spezzaferro, Barocco a Roma. Le meraviglie delle arti, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Fondazione Roma, 2015), a cura di M.G. Bernardini, M. Bussagli, Milano 2015, p. 356, cat. 10; 
  • D. Scaglietti Kelescian (a cura di), Alessandro Turchi detto l’Orbetto 1578-1649, Verona 2019, pp. 141-142.