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Two men and a dog

Veneto school

Mentioned in the inventory of 1693, this painting has been attributed – albeit with reservations – to Niccolò Frangipane of Veneto, an artist active during the second half of the 16th century in Venice, Marche and Romagna, contributing to the diffusion of Titian’s models and culture.

The canvas depicts two men and a dog, whose presence most likely alludes to the friendship between the pair of portrayed figures. Unfortunately, the fact that the work does not appear in all the Borghese inventories and the absence of any information about its provenance makes it difficult to reconstruct its history as a collector’s piece.

Object details

1590 circa
oil on canvas
cm 68 x 68

Rome, Borghese Collection, 1693 (Inv.1693, room VII, no. 11; Della Pergola 1955); purchased by Italian state, 1902

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1965/66 - Alvaro Esposti


The exact provenance of this painting is still unknown, although it probably entered the Borghese Collection following the confiscation of Cavalier d’Arpino’s gallery of paintings (Hermann Fiore 2000). This double portrait is identified with certainty only from the inventory of 1693, which lists a work ‘on canvas of three spans [...] with a man holding a bullfinch in his hand while a dog rests its paws on his chest, with another figure, at no. 550, with a gilded frame’. The entry ascribes the work to Titian, a name justly rejected by Adolfo Venturi (1893) in favour of a more general attribution to the Venetian school. Roberto Longhi (1928) likewise excluded the hand of Titian in the work, becoming the first to propose Niccolò Frangipane. His theory was supported by Paola della Pergola (1955) but not by Bert W. Meijer (1972). The attribution to Frangipane was revived by Kristina Herrmann Fiore in 2006. Although this suggestion has its charm, we would do well to place a question mark next to this name, as the painting’s poor state of conversation makes it difficult to read.

The work, which is not evidently mentioned in the Inventario Fidecommissario of 1833, depicts two elegantly attired men together with a dog, whose presence most likely defines their friendship as solid and loyal. The man wears a red hat and holds a flute in his hand, a detail which recalls the genre of comic subjects often painted by Frangipane, as we know from several 16th- and 17th-century inventories of local Venetian collections which refer to several of his works representing portraits of jesters and their concerts. Significant in this regard are the similarities between this work and other paintings attributed to the artist from Friuli: beyond the repertory of depicted figures, these show the same characteristics of an often discontinuous style of painting.

Antonio Iommelli

  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 90;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 187;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955, p. 111, n. 199;
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (II), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVIII, 1964, p. 460;
  • B. W. Meijer, Niccolò Frangipane, in "Saggi e memorie di Storia dell'Arte", XVIII, 1972, p. 186, fig. 41;
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, in Caravaggio: la luce nella pittura lombarda, catalogo della mostra (Bergamo, Accademia Carrara, 2000), a cura di C. Strinati, Milano 2000, p. 61;
  • 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. 41.