Mistakenly described as a ‘rustic scene’ in the Borghese inventories, this painting depicts Winter, which like the other Seasons in the Borghese Collection shows a series of figures and typical occupations of that season, such as gathering wood. In addition to the landscape completely covered in snow, the frigid, wintry atmosphere is emphasised by a peasant family huddled around a fire; one of the women in the group has a spindle and a pair of bellows, while a man is warming his feet.
As in the other Seasons by the Bassano family, this composition contains an isolated Biblical scene in the background, namely Christ Carrying the Cross; the death of Christ indeed evokes the darkness of evil and winter, a time when nature – like Jesus – dies in order to be reborn in spring.
A different version of this subject, which critics attribute to the Bassano circle (inv. no. 9), still forms part of the Borghese Collection.
Salvator Rosa (154 x 209.5 x 9.2 cm)
Rome, Borghese Collection, 1790 (Inv. 1790, room I, no. 38); Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, p. 39; purchased by Italian state, 1902.
The first mention of this painting dates to 1790, when it was included in the inventory of the belongings of the Borghese family. Here it was indicated as a ‘country scene by Bassano’. The same description was given by the compiler of the 1833 Inventario Fidecommissario. Originally attributed to Jacopo Bassano (Venturi 1893; Arslan 1931), in 1928 Roberto Longhi was the first to propose that it came from the workshop of Leandro. His opinion, though, was rejected by Paola della Pergola (1955), who considered the work a derivation from an original by Jacopo; while first leaning toward an attribution to Jacopo’s circle, she later published it as a copy. Longhi’s hypothesis was also rebuffed by Edoardo Arslan (1960), who believed it to be in the style of Girolamo Bassano.
The subject of the painting was also uncertain at first. Initially believed to be a country scene, it is now understood to be a representation of Winter, as is evident in several of the scenes depicted in the composition, such as the gathering of firewood on the right, the family of peasants huddled around the fire, the woman with the spindle, and the seated man warming his feet. This interpretation is confirmed by the image of Christ Carrying the Cross, a motif found again in both the Winter at the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna (Gemäldegalerie, inv. no. 4288) and a second version of the subject in the Borghese Collection (inv. no. 9).
In addition, it is probable that like the other works of the Seasons cycle in the Galleria Borghese this canvas was also in the Casino di Porta Pinciana in 1650, when Iacomo Manilli recorded 13 works which he attributed to the Bassano circle.