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View of Villa Borghese

Cuylenborch Abraham van

(Utrecht c. 1610 - 1658)

This view shows the main façade of Villa Borghese and the park in front, with several figures that give life to the scene. When the Italian state purchased the panel in 1931, it was still ascribed to Bartholomeus Breenbergh. Later, critics changed the attribution to the Dutch painter Abraham van Cuylenborch, a follower of Cornelis van Poelenburgh. The painting has been dated to roughly 1636.

Object details

c. 1636
oil on panel
50 x 61 cm

17th-century frame with double lotus leaf frieze and palmettes, 59 x 71.6 x 2.5 cm


Purchased by Italian state from Prince Vladimir Argontinsky Dolgoronkoff, 1931.

  • 1931 Firenze, Palazzo Vecchio
  • 1966-1967 Roma, Palazzo Braschi
  • 1989-1990 Sendai, Sendai City Museum; Ishinomaki, Ishinomaki Culture Center
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1952 F. Binna


This painting was exhibited at the Mostra del Giardino Italiano in Florence in 1931, the same year that the Italian state purchased it from Prince Vladimir Argontinsky Dolgoronkoff. The work is an evocative representation of Villa Borghese and its surrounding park, with several small figures which animate the scene. The viewer’s attention is especially drawn to the beauty of the park with its long tree-lined avenue, the statues on either side and the people moving along it, rather than to the Villa itself, which is relegated to the background (Stefani 2000, p. 212); indeed the focus of the panel seems to be a scene of everyday life. In this regard, the work in question differs from the view painted by J.W. Baur (inv. no. 519), as it treats the prospect of the Villa’s façade as a scenic backdrop for a landscape genre painting, which the artist enriched with several elements of his own invention. Although considered in the past as a copy of Baur’s painting, the work in question clearly has no connection to it and is certainly the product of a different painter.

Regarding its attribution, critics first proposed the name of Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Della Pergola 1959, p. 147; Pietrangeli 1967, p. 32), an artist who was in contact with Scipione Borghese and who could have well painted the work around 1627. Yet this theory was later rejected (Salerno 1977, p. 986), with at least one scholar putting forth the name of Govaert van Schayck (Herrmann Fiore 1997, p. 64). More recently, however, a more convincing attribution was made to Abraham van Cuylenborch, the painter from Utrecht, while the dating of the work has been moved back by about a decade (Stefani 2000, pp. 212-13; Herrmann Fiore 2006, p. 182). Previously, Della Pergola had noted similarities with Van Cuylenborch’s style, although she rejected an attribution to him because it was not known that he had spent time in Rome; she thus upheld the name of Breenbergh. Yet given the romantic, suggestive character of the view, together with the presence of several elements of the artist’s own invention, it is possible that the painting was inspired by an engraving or another figurative source, and not necessarily by what the artist observed in person. For this reason, an attribution to Van Cuylenborch cannot be excluded. This thesis indeed finds support in the clear stylistic affinities between our panel and the Diana Bathing (also held by the Galleria: inv. no. 279), which is certainly by the Dutch painter, as it bears his signature. The rendering of light and shadow is similar in both works, as is the colour scheme.

Pier Ludovico Puddu

  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 147-148, n. 205.
  • Villa Borghese, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Palazzo Braschi, 1966-1967), a cura di C. Pietrangeli, Roma 1966, p. 32.
  • L. Salerno, Pittori di Paesaggio del Seicento a Roma, II, Roma 1976, p. 460.
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Guida alla Galleria Borghese, Roma 1997, p. 64.
  • C. Stefani, in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese, Milano 2000, pp. 212-213.
  • 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. 182.