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The Saviour

Workshop of Carracci Agostino

Bologna 1557 - Parma 1602)

This painting represents one of the most cherished and sympathetic themes in early 17th century Bolognese painting, as confirmed by the great success of the subject, repeated countless times. The canvas depicts the face of Christ, crowned by a wreath of thorns from which tears and blood are flowing. The sad gaze and purplish lips express those feelings that were meant to be aroused in the devout population.

Object details

primo decennio del secolo XVII
oil on canvas
cm 51 x 48

Salvator Rosa, 63.5 x 62 x 6 cm


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1650 (Manilli, 1650); Inv. 1693, room II, no. 93; Inv. 1790, room II, no. 15; Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 7; purchased by the Italian State, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1952 Augusto Cecconi Principi (pulitura e verniciatura);
  • 1992 Istituto Centrale del Restauro (disinfestazione); 
  • 2000 ENEA (indagini diagnostiche);
  • 2000-2001 Paola Mastropasqua (pulitura, asporto della vernice ingiallita e invecchiata, verniciatura a pennello, stuccatura e rasatura delle lacune, reintegrazione pittorica, verniciatura finale; restauro della cornice).


This painting is mentioned for the first time as part of the Borghese Collection in 1650, described by Iacomo Manilli, “the small painting […] of the Saviour is by Annibale Carracci.” This attribution was confirmed by Carlo Cesare Malvasia (1678) and by the compiler of the Borghese inventory in 1693. Later listed as a work by Ludovico Carracci (Inv. 1790), in 1928 the painting was likened to the Mary Magdalen (inv. 48), the dimensions of which were nearly identical to The Saviour’s, so that the two canvases were thought to have been conceived to hang together, a hypothesis discarded by Paola della Pergola in 1955. The scholar thought, in fact, that the two heads, copies of original works mentioned by several sources, had been put together at a later time, their dimensions modified for the occasion, as the difference in the figures’ proportions seems to suggest. With these considerations in mind, Della Pergola, then director of the Museo Borghese, attributed the paintings to a follower of Agostino Carracci, a position she partially revised in 1964, when she suggested that the painting may have been the one described in the Borghese inventory of 1693.

The work was clearly affected by Correggio’s Ecce Homo (London, National Gallery), a small painting that was once part of the collection of the Prati family in Parma, where Agostino Carracci saw it in 1587 and was inspired to produce a very well-known engraving. In fact, it is clear that the Bolognese was greatly impressed, further proof of which is offered by the Borghese tablet produced by his workshop, exalting the “stirrings of the soul” – in this case the Saviour’s – that could provoke the observer’s emotional participation.    

Antonio Iommelli

  • I. Manilli, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana, Roma 1650, p. 99; 
  • C.C. Malvasia, Felsina Pittrice, Bologna 1678, a cura di G. P. Zanotti 1841-1844, III, p. 357; 
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 185; 
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 54; 
  • H. Tietze, Annibale Carracci’s Tätigkeit in Rom, in “Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien”, XXVI, 1906-1907, p. 167; 
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, pp. 136, 180; 
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, pp. 19-20, n. 13; 
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (I), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVI, 1964, p. 224; 
  • S.E. Ostrow, Agostino Carracci, tesi di dottorato (New York University), New York 1966 (assente);
  • R. Longhi, Saggi e ricerche 1925-28. Precisioni nelle gallerie italiane. La Galleria Borghese, Firenze 1967, p. 334; 
  • 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. 18.