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The Judgement of Solomon

Attributed to Foschi Pier Francesco

(Florence 1502 - 1567)

This panel, recorded in the Borghese Collection since 1790, has been attributed by critics to the Florentine artist Pier Francesco Foschi. The scene, with its rigorously symmetrical structure, depicts the mythical King Solomon, celebrated in the Bible for his proverbial wisdom. The sovereign, seated on a throne under a canopy, is summoned by two women, who after giving birth to their children – one of whom has died – appealed to the courts to claim the maternity of the one newborn child who is still alive. Not knowing the reality of the facts, the old king cleverly provokes the two mothers, deciding to have the little body of the surviving child equally divided into two parts. At this request, the true mother, moved by sincere love, renounced her right to the child by stopping the armed royal guard, unlike the other woman who, envious, had accepted decision, thus revealing her wicked plan.

Object details

first half of the 16th century
tempera on panel
cm 65 x 49,5

Sixteenth-century frame with arabesques on black background (cm 84 x 67 x 5.5)


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, St. VII, no. 21); Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 28, no. 41. Purchased by the Italian State 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1903/05 - Luigi Bartolucci (pest control)
  • 1947 - Carlo Matteucci
  • 1968 - Oddo Verdinelli
  • 2002/03 - Andrea Parri (frame).


The provenance of this work is still unknown. In fact, the painting is first reported in the Borghese Collection in 1790, inventoried as a work by Franciabigio. This attribution, confirmed in the Fidecommisso (1833), was rejected by Morelli who in 1897 proposed Piero di Cosimo, whose name was unanimously accepted by all critics (Knapp 1899; Berenson 1903; Borenius in Crowe-Cavalcaselle 1914; De Rinaldis 1937; Langton Douglas 1946) and only partly by Adolfo Venturi (1893) and Ullmann (1894; Id. 1896). The attribution of the panel to the Florentine artist was unquestionably dismissed by Federico Zeri (in Della Pergola 1959; an opinion later shared by Bacci 1966; Id. 1977) who, comparing the Borghese painting with Pier Francesco Foschi’s Death of Laocoön (London, private collection), did not hesitate to assign The Judgement of Solomon to the latter, painted after, just like the London panel, Filippino Lippi’s half-destroyed frescoes at Poggio a Caiano. This hypothesis, promptly accepted by Paola della Pergola (1959), was however questioned by Zeri himself a few years later (Zeri 1962), who proposed to attribute the painting to the anonymous ‘Master of Serumido’ – an artist active in Florence in the first twenty years of the sixteenth century, whose identity is still unknown – while confirming the Filippino-Lippi model for the painting, executed, according to the scholar in keeping with ‘those modes typical of a proto-mannerist period close to Alonso Berruguete’ (Id.). This opinion, which has never been examined by scholars, has not been confirmed by Kristina Herrmann Fiore who in 2006 republished the work attributing it to Foschi.

Antonio Iommelli

  • M. Vasi, Itinerario, Roma 1794., p. 393;
  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 347;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 235;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 163;
  • H. Ullmann, recensione II Museo e la Galleria Borghese di A. Venturi, in “Repertorium für Kunstwissenschaft”, XVII, 1894, p. 159;
  • H. Ullmann, Piero di Cosimo, in “Jahrbuch der Königl. Preuss. Kunstsammlungen”, XVII, 1896, p. 51;
  • G. Morelli, Della Pittura Italiana. Studi Storici Critici: Le Gallerie Borghese e Doria Pamphili in Roma, Milano 1897, p. 116;
  • F. Knapp, Piero di Cosimo, Halle 1899, pp. 94, 113;
  • B. Berenson, The Drawings of Florentine Painters, London 1903, p. 131;
  • G. Lafenestre, E. Richtenberger, La peinture en Europe. Rome. Les Musées, les Collections particulières, les Palais, Paris 1905, p. 19;
  • B. Berenson, Florentine Painters, New York 1909, p. 165;
  • J. A. Crowe, G. B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in Italy, a cura di Borenius, VI, London 1914, p. 48;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 208;
  • B. Berenson, Pitture Italiane del Rinascimento, Milano 1936, p. 390;
  • A. De Rinaldis, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1937, p. 227;
  • R. Langton-Douglas, Piero di Cosimo, Chicago 1946, pp. 79, 118;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1948, p. 36;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 26;
  • P. Morselli, Ragioni di un pittore fiorentino. Piero di Cosimo, in “L’Arte”, XXII, 1958, pp. 38, nota 67, 56, 83;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 24-25, n. 25;
  • F. Zeri, Eccentrici Fiorentini, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, XLVII, 1962, p. 322;
  • M. Bacci, L’Opera completa di Piero di Cosimo, Milano 1966, pp. 105, 109, 127;
  • M. Bacci, L’Opera completa di Piero di Cosimo, Milano 1976, p. 99;
  • P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 243;
  • 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. 109.