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Virgin and Child with Two Angels

Puligo Domenico

(Florence 1492 - after 1527)

The work is probably a product of the early career of Domenico Puligo (Domenico Ubaldini). It was first mentioned in connection with the Borghese Collection in the 1693 inventory and appears in those of 1790 and 1833. In the past it was ascribed to Andrea del Sarto, who had a strong influence on Puligo. Beginning with Adolfo Venturi, critics have generally attributed the panel to Domenico himself.

Object details

oil on panel
diametro 68 cm

19th-century frame with corner floral motifs; diameter: 98 cm / thickness: 7.5 cm


Borghese Collection, cited in Inv. 1693, room I, no. 45; Inv. 1790, room IX, no. 6; Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 36, no. 27. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.

Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1936 Carlo Matteucci
  • 1950-1951 Augusto Cecconi Principi
  • 1992 Istituto Centrale del Restauro


The work first appeared in a Borghese inventory in 1693, where it was described as ‘a tondo with the Madonna and Child and two angels, on panel, roughly 4 spans [...] by Andrea del Sarto’. The same attribution is made in the 1790 inventory (‘The Blessed Virgin in a tondo, Andrea del Sarto’), while the Inventario fidecommissario lists it as an imitation (‘Holy Family, imitation of Andrea del Sarto, tondo with a diameter of 3 ½ spans, on panel’).

Adolfo Venturi (1893, p. 214) was the first scholar to ascribe the painting to Domenico Puligo, a judgement with which later critics agreed (Longhi 1928, p. 222; Berenson 1936, p. 409; De Rinaldis 1939, p. 24; Della Pergola 1959, p. 49; Gardner 1986, pp. 150-151, Stefani 2000, p. 291, Herrmann Fiore 2006, p. 152) and which is still generally accepted today. Paola Della Pergola made the connection with two other works with the same subject which she believed were also by Puligo: one is held at the Galleria Sabauda in Turin – with an attribution to the circle of Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio – and the other at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Palazzo Barberini in Rome (donated by Henriette Hertz), which is ascribed to Puligo.

Yet not all critics accept this attribution of the Borghese tondo. Patrizia La Porta (1990, p. 115) believed that the panel betrays the hand of Francesco d’Agnolo, known as Spillo, the brother of Andrea del Sarto and certainly one of his followers. La Porta put forth this thesis on the basis of stylistic similarities with the few known works by that artist, whose idiom no doubt reflects that of Puligo, given Andrea’s influence on both painters.

Following an initial period of training under Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, Domenico Puligo in fact worked closely with Andrea, who taught him the sfumato technique that became a hallmark of his own work, although he employed it with greater emphasis compared to the master. Indeed in his Lives (Florence 1568, p. 104) Giorgio Vasari wrote that Puligo made great use of the technique to hide his uncertainties in his compositions, given his less-than-perfect skills as a draughtsman.

The Borghese panel is circular in shape – a frequent choice in late 15th-century Florentine circles – which in fact reinforces the thesis that it dates to Puligo’s early career, probably between the first and second decades of the 16th century (Stefani 2000). In his monograph on the painter, Gardner (1986, pp. 150-151) more specifically proposed the years between 1512 and 1515.

The Virgin is depicted frontally as she holds the naked Child, who gives the sign of the blessing. Two angels occupy the sides of the composition, one of whom holds a book. Their poses complement each other: while the one on the right is shown frontally as he looks to the Virgin, the other is shown in profile with his gaze directed at the viewer. The coarsely outlined limbs of the Child are in a completely unnatural position, a motif which has led critics to connect the figure here with the Child in the Madonna and Child with Saint Joseph and the Infant Saint John the Baptist by the so-called Master of the Kress Landscapes (Giovanni di Lorenzo Lanciani), which also forms part of the Borghese Collection (inv. no. 332; Stefani 2000). 

Mary’s halo and the figures of the two angels, especially the one on the right, seem to have been cut, suggesting a possible reduction of the support material of the original work.

Pier Ludovico Puddu

  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 244.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 214.
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 222.
  • A. Venturi, Storia dell’Arte Italiana, vol. IX (parte 5), Roma 1932, p. 249.
  • B. Berenson, Pitture Italiane del Rinascimento (trad. it. E. Cecchi), Milano 1936, p. 409.
  • A. De Rinaldis, La Galleria Borghese in Roma (“Itinerari dei Musei e Monumenti d’Italia”, XLIII), Roma 1939, p. 24.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese in Roma, (“Itinerari dei musei e monumenti d’Italia”, XLIII), Roma 1951, p. 37.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 49 n. 69.
  • S.B. Lockart, The Work of Domenico Puligo, Dissertation, London, Courtald Institute, 1973, n. 36.
  • G.A. Gardner, The paintings of Domenico Puligo, Dissertation, The Ohio State University, 1986, pp. 150-151, n. 3 (con bibliografia precedente).
  • P. La Porta, "Sir Spillo" fratello d’Andrea del Sarto: un contributo, in “Bollettino d’arte”, 6 Ser., LXXV, 1990, 62/63, p. 115.
  • L. Di Giacomo, I Cecconi Principi. Una famiglia di restauratori romani tra Ottocento e Novecento, in “Kermes”, XXVI, 1996, p. 38.
  • C. Stefani in P. Moreno, C. Stefani, Galleria Borghese 2000, p. 291, n. 15.
  • Domenico Puligo (1492-1527). Un protagonista dimenticato della pittura fiorentina, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, Palazzo Pitti, 2002-2003), a cura di E. Capretti et alii, Livorno 2002.
  • 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. 152.