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Virgin and Child with Saints

Tisi Benvenuto called Garofalo

(Garofalo or Ferrara 1476 - Ferrara 1559)

The figures in this painting are arranged on either side of the Madonna, who is sitting in the exact middle of the composition. In the background, there is a barely noted architectural element, a detail that is quite frequent in Garofalo’s paintings. Besides the Archangel Michael, the other figures are probably St Joseph, on the right, and, in the background, Sts Anne and Joachim.

Object details

1524 circa
oil on panel
cm 47x82

Borghese collection, documented in the Inventario fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 14

  • 1982, Roma, Palazzo Venezia
  • 2008, Ferrara, Castello Estense
Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1921 Riccardo Bacci Venuti
  • 1941 Gabinetto Nazionale del Restauro
  • 2019 Koinè
  • 2021 Measure3D di Danilo Salzano (laser scan 3D)
  • 2021 Erredicci (diagnostics)
  • 2021 ArsMensurae di Stefano Ridolfi (diagnostics)
  • 2021 IFAC-CNR (diagnostics)


Although its original provenance is unknown, the iconography of this painting is very unique. The composition, in which the figures are portrayed in the Venetian style, half-length, is dominated by classical architecture in the background on the left and a patch of sky on the right. In the foreground, the Virgin Mary is immediately identifiable as the mediating figure, providing access to the work and its meaning by looking straight at the viewer and touching the Christ Child with her right hand. The Christ Child, held in his mother’s arms and resting on a fringed white cloth, indicates a globe that has been divided into two halves: one with the sky and the other with a woody landscape in which we can just make out a human figure. This element, along with the length of fabric which might allude to the sudarium, has been read as a reference to the Agony in the Garden (Herrmann Fiore 2002), which when added to the preceding reference would become a prefiguration of the Passion of Christ, also in line with the passion for the geographic location of sacred sites so fashionable in the early modern period (A. Scafi, Il paradiso in terra. Mappe del giardino dell'Eden, Milano 2007). On the right, St Joseph seems to be attentively and tenderly watching the Christ Child play, while on the left we find St Michael the Archangel, in full armour with a splendid cuirass and crowned with an exquisite diadem, above whom, in the architectural decoration, we see two figures seated in the position of prisoners, a probable allusion to the defeat of the demon fundamental to the archangel’s cult. Behind this triad, there are two elderly people who some have identified, given the presence of haloes, as Sts Joachim and Anne.

Although different dates have been proposed, varying between 1529-1532 (Coliva 1994), 1530-1531 (Neppi 1959) and 1527 (Herrmann Fiore 2002), the most likely date seems to be 1524 (Fioravanti Baraldi 1993), considering the strong influence of Dosso, which probably derives from their work together on the Costabili Polyptych for the (now destroyed) church of Sant’Andrea in Ferrara (Pinacoteca Nazionale di Ferrara, inv. PNFe 189-194; Della Pergola 1955). This painting also reveals Garofalo’s mastery of the language of Raphael, with solutions adopted more or less at the same time by Giulio Romano. A distinctly Raphaelesque air is found especially in the figure of St Michael, possibly in connection with the cartoon that Raphael sent to Duke Alfonso I d’Este for his painting of the same subject for Francis I of France, now in the Musée du Louvre (inv. 610; for the story of the cartoon and the links between Raphael’s painting and that of Garofalo, with earlier bibliography, see: K. Faber, ‘Il "Trionfo di Bacco" di Benvenuto Tisi detto Il Garofalo: dal modello raffaellesco al dipinto per le "camere nuove de corte" di Ercole II d’Este’, in Dosso Dossi e la pittura a Ferrara negli anni del ducato di Alfonso I, ed. A. Pattanaro, Cittadella 2007, VI, p. 295).

Lara Scanu

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  • E. Platner, Bes Chreibung der Stadt Rom, III.3. Das Marsfeld, die Tiberinsel, Trastevere und der Janiculus, III, Stuttgart 1842, p. 299
  • G. Baruffaldi, Vite de’ pittori e scultori ferraresi, I, Ferrara 1844-1846, p. 364 nota 1
  • G. Morelli, Kunstkritische Studien über italienische Malerei. Die Galerien zu München und Dresden, Leipzig 1890 (ed. 1892), p. 210
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, pp. 133-134
  • G. Gruyer, L’art Ferrarais a l’époque des Princes d’Este, II, Parigi 1897, p. 324
  • B. Berenson, The North Italian Painters of the Renaissance, New York-London 1907, p. 227
  • E. G. Gardner, The Painters of the School of Ferrara, London 1911, p. 237
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle gallerie italiane. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 198
  • A. Venturi, Storia dell’Arte Italiana, IX, 4, Milano 1929, pp. 296-298, 318 n. 1
  • B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of Renaissance. A list of the Principal Artist and their Works with an Index of Places, Oxford 1932, p. 219
  • B. Berenson, Pitture italiane del Rinascimento: catalogo dei principali artisti e delle loro opere con un indice dei luoghi, Milano 1936, p. 188
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  • B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Central Italian and North Italian Schools, I, London 1968, p. 157
  • A. M. Fioravanti Baraldi, Benvenuto Tisi da Garofalo tra Rinascimento e Manierismo. Contributo alla catalogazione delle opere dell’artista dal 1512 al 1550, 1976-1977, pp. 62, 144
  • V. Sgarbi, Testimonianze inedite del raffaellismo in Emilia : Garofalo, Gerolamo da Carpi e Battista Dossi a Belriguardo, in Studi su Raffaello, a cura di M. Sambuco Harmound, M.L. Strocchi, Urbino 1987, p. 598
  • A. Pattanaro, Il testamento di Antonio Costabili : per il polittico di Dosso e Garofalo già in Sant’Andrea a Ferrara, «Arte Veneta», XLIII, (1989-1990)1991, p. 132
  • A. M. Fioravanti Baraldi, Il Garofalo. Benvenuto Tisi pittore (c. 1476-1559), Rimini 1993, p. 166, n. 101
  • A. Coliva, Galleria Borghese, Roma 1994, p. 127
  • V. Romani, in A. Ballarin, Dosso Dossi. La pittura a Ferrara negli anni del Ducato di Alfonso I, Cittadella (PD) 1994-1995, scheda 311
  • E. Sambo, Niccolò Pisano pittore (1470-post 1536), Rimini 1995, p. 48
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  • K. Herrmann Fiore, in Il museo senza confini. Dipinti ferraresi del Rinascimento nelle raccolte romane, a cura di J. Bentini e S. Guarino, Milano 2002, p. 163, scheda 20
  • K. Hermann Fiore, Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla Pinacoteca ai depositi, un museo che non ha più segreti, Roma 2006, p. 80
  • M. Danieli, scheda n. 10, in Garofalo. Pittore della Ferrara Estense, catalogo della mostra (Ferrara, Castello Estense, 5 aprile - 6 luglio 2008), a cura di T. Kustodieva, M. Lucco, Milano 2008, pp. 149-150