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.

The Saviour

Attributed to Venusti Marcello

(Como c. 1515 - Rome 1579)

This panel may have once formed part of the rich estate of Fulvio Orsini. Critics have ascribed it to Marcello Venusti, the painter from the Valtellina who was stylistically close to Michelangelo and Sebastiano del Piombo; Marcello was active in Rome in the workshop Perin del Vaga, a follower of Raphael. The work depicts the head of the Saviour and probably formed the pendant of a lost portrait of the Virgin.

Object details

Second half of 16th century
oil on panel
cm 42,5 x 34,5

Salvator Rosa, 53.6 x 44.3 x 6 cm


(?) Rome, collection of Fulvio Orsini, 1600 (Parrilla 2014); Rome, collection of Olimpia Aldobrandini, 1624 (Parrilla 2014); Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, room 1, no. 34; Della Pergola 1964); Inv. c.1700, room I, no. 22; Inv. 1790, room V, no. 17; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 22; purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1913 Luigi Bartolucci, Lorenzo Cecconi Principi (support).


Paola della Pergola (1959) once proposed that the painting came into the Borghese Collection through the estate of Cardinal Antonio Maria Salviati, who possessed a similar oval portrait as well as a Head of the Virgin Mary; both works, she claimed, were purchased from the painter Antonio Mariani, as indicated in a receipt dated 1612 (in the ‘Artisan Receipts’ of the Salviati archives, 1612, cited in Della Pergola 1959). Nonetheless, in light of the absence of other information and the success with which these two images met, this hypothesis seems uncertain, especially when we consider that the Salviati collection did not come into the possession of the Borghese family until 1794 (Costamagna 2001).

By contrast, Francesca Parrilla (2014) proposed that the panel may have come from the collection of Fulvio Orsini (1529-1600) through the Aldobrandini family, in whose inventory of 1624 it is first cited. From there it could have entered the Borghese Collection as part of the estate of Olimpia Aldobrandini: indeed it was Della Pergola herself who noted the presence of this Saviour in the 1693 inventory (Inv. 1693; Della Pergola 1964).

Inventories and critics of the 18th and 19th centuries attributed the work to a variety of artists:  the divine Raphael (Inv. 1700), Federico Zuccari (Inv. 1790), Paris Bordon (Inventario Fidecommissario 1833; Giovanni Piancastelli 1891), and Giulio Clovio (Adolfo Venturi 1893). Roberto Longhi (1928) was the first to make the definitive attribution to Marcello Venusti. His view was first called into question by Paola della Pergola (1959) but then later confirmed by her and successive critics (Della Pergola 1964; Herrmann Fiore 2006; Parrilla 2014 and 2019).

In this regard, it is interesting to note Parrilla’s interpretation of the 19th-century attribution of this Saviour to Bordon. In her view (2014; 2019), this idea is explained by Venusti’s marked interest in Venetian painting, and in particular in Titian, whose works he copied on numerous occasions, absorbing his compositional arrangements and tones of lighting. This quite credible reading of the context of the painting allows us to connect it to other works made by Venusti for the Farnese, for which he perhaps drew inspiration from a prototype by Titian in the Della Rovere collections; it further clarifies its provenance from the Orsini family, as Fulvio was one of those closest to Cardinal Alessandro, in particular from 1544.

Antonio Iommelli

  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 357;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 34;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 184;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 215;
  • A. Venturi, Storia dell'Arte Italiana, IX, Roma 1933, p. 494;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 139, n. 192;
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (I), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVI, 1964, p. 228;
  • 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. 126;
  • F. Parrilla, Marcello Venusti e le copie da Tiziano nella collezione Farnese, in Collezioni romane dal Quattrocento al Settecento. Protagonisti e comprimari, a cura di F. Parrilla, Roma 2014, pp. 24, 29 note 27, 29;
  • F. Parrilla, in Michelangelo a colori. Marcello Venusti, Lelio Orsi, Marco Pino, Jacopino del Conte, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica, 2019), a cura di F. Parrilla, Roma 2019, pp. 23 fig. 9, 24, 36 nota 37.