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The Virgin and Child and Young Saint John

Master of the Kress Landscapes (Giovanni di Lorenzo Larciani?)

(Florence 1487 - 1527)

Variously attributed in the Galleria Borghese inventories to Parmigianino and Beccafumi, this panel was long considered one of Rosso Fiorentino’s early works, only related in 1972 to the Master of the Kress Landscapes, a personality identified by critics with Giovanni di Lorenzo Larciani. It depicts what is known as the Virgin of Humility, a subject widely explored by painters who, unlike in the Maestà, portray the Virgin sitting on the ground and not enthroned. Behind her, in a pleasing landscape, are Joseph and the young John the Baptist. 

Object details

c. 1515
oil on panel
cm 77 x 63

Salvator Rosa (cm 94,5 x 80 x 6,3)


Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv. 1693, St. I, No. 53; Della Pergola 1959); Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 36. Purchased by the Italian State, 1902

  • 1956 Firenze, Palazzo Strozzi
  • 1996 Firenze, Museo degli Uffizi
  • 2006 Fucecchio, Museo di Fucecchio
  • 2009 Bologna, Museo Civico Archeologico
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1906 - Luigi Bartolucci (pest control);
  • 1936 - Carlo Matteucci;
  • 1958 - Renato Massi (frame);
  • 2009 - Paola Mastropasqua.


The provenance of this panel is still unknown. The work, in fact, is only attested in the Borghese Collection from 1693 onwards, described in the inventory as follows: ‘a small panel painting measuring 4 palms with a Madonna and Child in her arms and Saint Joseph with Saint John with a landscape of no. 251 by Parmigianino with gilded frame’ (Inv. 1693).

The attribution to the Parma painter mentioned in the seventeenth-century document was abandoned in the following centuries (Inventario Fidecommissario 1833). The painting, in fact, was listed by Giovanni Piancastelli (1891) as by ‘an anonymous painter’, related by Adolfo Venturi to ‘a good Florentine master’ (Venturi 1893) and only with Ciaranfi (1934) attributed to the Sienese Domenico Beccafumi. This attribution, confirmed by Bernard Berenson (1936), was, however, discarded by Roberto Longhi (1928) who, for his part, maintained it could be a very early painting by Rosso Fiorentino, dating the Borghese Madonna to 1512 (Longhi 1928) and later to around 1514 (Id. 1953). This opinion, accepted by all critics (Becherucci 1944; Barocchi 1950; Freedberg 1961, Carroll 1964 [ed. 1976]; Borea 1965; Natali-Cecchi 1989; Conti 1995), was also confirmed by Paola Della Pergola (1959) who, in the catalogue of the Borghese Gallery paintings, published the panel as an autograph work by Rosso Fiorentino.

The first to question this interpretation was Carlo Gamba (1957), who suggested the painting could be attributed to the little-known painter Antonio di Donnino; he was followed in 1972 by Federico Zeri who, by thoroughly studying two landscapes from the Samuel H. Kress collection in the Washington National Gallery identified a ‘Master of the Kress Landscapes’, an anonymous artist to whom the scholar also proposed assigning the Holy Family with Four Saints of Fucecchio (Museo di Fucecchio), the Virgin and Child from the Museum of Arezzo, and the Virgin and Child with Saint John from Munich (private collection). The actual identity of this master, whose name was at first invented to overcome the absence of a true name to which a series of stylistically very close works could be assigned, was only identified in 1998 by Luis Waldman.

The scholar, in fact, following the discovery of some documents relating to the commission of the Fucecchio altarpiece, came across the name of its true author, namely Giovanni di Lorenzo Larciani, to whom critics decidedly attributed all the paintings that had been so far assigned to the Kress Master, including the Borghese panel (Waldman 2006; Sambo 2009). It is interesting to emphasise how the personality of this artist, whose production has recently been emerging in a rather consistent manner (Palmieri 2011; Aquino 2013; Del Rosso 2017), adheres perfectly to that outlined by Zeri several years earlier: active in the Florentine area in the first half of the sixteenth century, he was in fact very close to the group of the ‘Florentine eccentrics’ (Waldman 2001), with whom he shared that intolerance for rules, reflected both in his bright rendering of colours and in the use of a fluid but at the same time angular line.

Antonio Iommelli

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 468;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 164;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane. La R. Galleria Borghese. Andrea del Sarto, in “Vita Artistica”, II, 1927, II, pp. 87-88;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, pp. 131-135;
  • K. Kusenberg, Le Rosso, Paris 1931, p. 130;
  • A. M. Ciaranfi, Alcune opere del Beccafumi, in “Bullettino Senese di Storia Patria”, IV, 1934, pp. 1, 12;
  • B. Berenson, Pitture Italiane del Rinascimento, Milano 1936, p. 57;
  • L. Becherucci, Manieristi toscani, Bergamo 1944, pp. 23-24;
  • A. De Rinaldis, Catalogo della Galleria Borghese, Roma 1948, p. 52;
  • P. Barocchi, Il Rosso fiorentino, Roma 1950, pp. 20-22;
  • G. B. Comandè, Introduzione allo studio dell’Arte di Andrea del Sarto, Palermo 1950, pp. 66-67, 70;
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Milano 1950, p. 26;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, Roma 1951, p. 31; Fontainebleau e la maniera italiana, catalogo della mostra (Napoli, Mostra d'Oltremare, 1952), a cura di Centro Italiano di Arte Cultura Spettacolo, Firenze 1952, p. 2;
  • G. Briganti, Una Madonna del Rosso, in “Paragone”, XLIII, 1953, p. 52;
  • R. Longhi, Ambrogio Figino e due citazioni del Caravaggio, in “Paragone”, LV, 1954, p. 8; Il Pontormo e il primo manierismo fiorentino, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Palazzo Strozzi, 1956), a cura di U. Baldini, L. Berti, Firenze 1956, pp. 119-120;
  • L. Ferrara, Galleria Borghese, Novara 1956, pp. 32-33;
  • R. Oertel, Pontormo und der Florentiner Frühmanierismus. Austellung in Palazzo Strozzi in Florenz – 24 May-15 Juli,in “Kunstchronik”, IX, 1956, pp. 9, 219;
  • C. Gamba, Antonio di Donnino, in “L’Arte”, XXI, 1957, pp. 7-9;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 50-51, n. 71;
  • S. J. Freedberg, Andrea del Sarto, I, Cambridge 1961, pp. 248-251;
  • F. Zeri, Eccentrici Fiorentini, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, XLVII, 1962;
  • E. A. Carroll, The drawings of Rosso Fiorentino, I, New York 1964, pp. 98-100;
  • C. Del Bravo, Un dipinto manieristico, in “Festschrift Ullrich Middeldorf”, I, 1968, pp. 281-283;
  • A. Pinelli, La Maniera: definizione de campo e modelli di lettura, in “Storia dell'Arte Italiana”, VI, Torino 1981, p. 112;
  • L. Berti, Per gli inizi del Rosso Fiorentino, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, XVIII, 1983, pp. 45-60;
  • A. Natali, in A. Natali, A. Cecchi, Andrea Del Sarto: catalogo completo dei dipinti, Firenze 1989, pp. 16-17;
  • A. Conti, Pontormo, Milano 1995, p. 25;
  • R. Spinelli, in L'Officina della Maniera. Varietà e fierezza nell'arte fiorentina del Cinquecento fra le due repubbliche 1494-1530, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Galleria degli Uffizi, 1996), a cura di
  • A. Cecchi, A. Natali, Firenze 1996, pp. 326-327, n. 117;
  • L.A. Waldman, The 'Master of the Kress Landscapes' Unmasked: Giovanni Larciani and the Fucecchio Altar-piece, in "The Burlington Magazine", CXL, 1998, pp. 456-469;
  • L.A. Waldman, The Rank and File of Renaissance Painting: Giovanni Larciani and the "Florentine Eccentrics", in Italian Renaissance Masters, catalogo della mostra (Milwaukee, Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, 2001), a cura di D. Franklin, A. Sawkins, Milwaukee 2001, pp. 24-45;
  • C. Stefani, in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, p. 287;
  • 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;
  • R. C. Proto Pisani, in La valle dei tesori: capolavori allo specchio; una mostra del territorio dell’Empolese Valdelsa, catalogo della mostra (Empoli, Museo della Collegiata di Sant’Andrea; Certaldo, Museo di Arte Sacra; Montespertoli, Museo di Arte Sacra; Castelfiorentino, Museo di Santa Verdiana; Fucecchio, Museo di Fucecchio, 2006), a cura di R.C. Proto Pisani, Firenze 2006, p. 38;
  • L. A. Waldman, in La valle dei tesori: capolavori allo specchio; una mostra del territorio dell’Empolese Valdelsa, catalogo della mostra (Empoli, Museo della Collegiata di Sant’Andrea; Certaldo, Museo di Arte Sacra; Montespertoli, Museo di Arte Sacra; Castelfiorentino, Museo di Santa Verdiana; Fucecchio, Museo di Fucecchio, 2006), a cura di R.C. Proto Pisani, Firenze 2006, p. 100;
  • E. Sambo, Il Maestro dei paesaggi Kress, un eccentrico fiorentino, in Federico Zeri: dietro l'immagine; opere d'arte e fotografia, catalogo della mostra (Bologna, Museo civico archeologico 2009-10), a cura di A. Ottani Cavina, Torino 2009, p. 62 n. IX;
  • M. Palmieri, Un'aggiunta al catalogo di Giovanni di Lorenzo Larciani, in 'Arte cristiana', XCIX, 2011, pp. 423-428;
  • L. Aquino, Francesco Granacci e Giovanni Larciani all'Oratorio di Santa Caterina all'Antella, Firenze 2013;
  • A. Del Rosso, Il primo Cinquecento a San Miniato. Bernardo di Niccolò Checchi architetto e l'ornamento del SS. Crocifisso. Con una nota su Giovanni di Lorenzo Larciani, Fucecchio 2017.