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copy after Luciani Sebastiano called Sebastiano del Piombo

(Venice c. 1485 - Rome 1547)

This painting, which may have belonged to Cavalier d'Arpino, depicts the meeting of the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, who are both pregnant, with Jesus and John the Baptist, respectively. The work is a high-quality copy of the Visitation painted by Sebastiano del Piombo for Filippo Sergardi. In the past some scholars attributed it to the Sienese artist Vincenzo Tamagni, although today not all critics concur.


Object details

Second half of the 16th century
oil on canvas
cm 147 x 179

Salvator Rosa( cm 178 x 198.5 x 7)


Rome, collection of Giuseppe Cesari, called Cavalier d'Arpino, 1607 (Inv. 1607, no. 81; Della Pergola 1959); Rome, collection of Scipione Borghese, 1607; Inv. 1693, room I, no. 33; Inventario Fidecommissario 1833, p. 39; purchased by Italian state, 1902.


Conservation and Diagnostic
  • 1952 Augusto Cecconi Principi, pulitura, ritocchi, verniciatura;
  • 2003 Valentina Pasquali, pulitura, stuccatura delle lacune, reintegrazione pittorica, verniciatura finale.


This work probably comes from the rich collection of paintings of Cavalier d'Arpino, who in 1607 was accused by Paul V’s fiscal police of illegal possession of firearms. As is well known, the artist was forced to cede about 100 works of art to the Apostolic Camera, including ‘a large painting of the Visitation of St Elisabeth, without a frame’. Critics have associated this work with the painting in question (della Pergola 1959; Hermann Fiore 2010).

While the 1693 inventory attributed the work to Pomarancio, Venturi (1893) justly ascribed it to the school of Sebastiano del Piombo. Roberto Longhi (1928) accepted this opinion, although with some reservations; Paola della Pergola (1959), on the other hand, rejected it, opting for an attribution to Vincenzo Tamagni, a Sienese artist who trained under Sodoma and who was active in Rome with Raphael’s workshop. Della Pergola in fact dated the work to no later than 1530, the year of Tamagni’s death, while Longhi (1928) had placed its execution between 1533 and 1538. Although Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2006) supported the attribution to Tamagni, not all critics agreed: the work in fact does not appear in Rossana Castrovinci’s monograph (2017) on the Sienese artist.

While scholars are still divided on the question of attribution, all agree that the work reproduces the Visitation by Sebastiano del Piombo for Filippo Sergardi, an oil painting executed on the wall of the Roman church of Santa Maria della Pace (Hirst 1965; for a different opinion, see della Pergola 1959), of which only several fragments have survived (Duke of Northumberland collection, Alnwick Castle; see Lucco 1980). The mural was in fact destroyed during work in the church carried out at the behest of Gaspare Rivaldi between 1611 and 1614; all traces of it were lost until 1841, when three fragments were identified in the collection of Cardinal Fesch. In an auction held in 1845, these were transferred to England, where they ended up in the collection of the Duke of Northumberland.

The painting of the Borghese Collection in fact provides us with the complete image of the mural before its destruction. It differs, however, from an engraving by Hieronymus Cock in both the landscape and the figure on the right (a child with a dog in the Borghese work, a woman in Cock’s rendition). According to Michael Hirst (1980), one of the most prominent scholars of Sebastiano del Piombo, there is a good reason for this discrepancy: while the Borghese replica exactly reproduced the painting by the Venetian artist, Cock worked from a preparatory drawing for his copper engraving.

As critics have suggested (Salvini 1959; Hirst 1965; Lucco 1980), the copy in the Borghese Collection should be dated to after 1550, close to the time of Sebastiano’s execution of the painting in Santa Maria della Pace.


Antonio Iommelli


  • D. Montelatici, Villa Borghese fuori di Porta Pinciana con l’ornamenti che si osservano nel di lei Palazzo, Roma 1700, p. 297;
  • F. W. B. von Ramdohr, Ueber Malherei und Bildhauerarbeit in Rom für Liebhaber des Schönen in der Kunst, Leipzig 1787, I, p. 277;
  • A. Manazzale, Itinerario, I, Roma 1817, p. 290;
  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, p. 352;
  • J. A. Crowe, G. B. Cavalcaselle, A History of Painting in North Italy, III, London 1871, p. 230;
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese, in Archivio Galleria Borghese 1891, p. 33;
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, p. 32;
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 177;
  • L. Düssler, Sebastiano del Piombo, Basel 1942, p. 121, nota 76)
  • R. Pallucchini, I dipinti della Galleria Estense, Roma 1944, pp. 75, 173;
  • B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Venetian School, I, London 1957, p. 164;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, pp. 134-135, n. 186;
  • R. Salvini, Note sui ritratti sebastianeschi di Clemente VII, in “Emporium”, CXXIX, 1959, p. 151;
  • P. della Pergola, L’Inventario Borghese del 1693 (I), in “Arte Antica e Moderna”, XXVI, 1964, pp. 221, 228;
  • M. Hirst, A Late Work of Sebastiano del Piombo, in “The Burlington Magazine”, CVII, 1965, pp. 177-85;
  • M. Lucco, L’opera completa di Sebastiano del Piombo, Milano 1980, pp. 125-126;
  • M. Hirst, Sebastiano del Piombo, Oxford 1981, pp. 145-146, n. 99;
  • 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. 69;
  • 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. 12.
  • R. Castrovinci, Vincenzo Tamagni da San Gimignano. Discepolo di Raffaello, Roma 2017 (assente).