RP.20 Holy Family with the Young St. John the Baptist

RP.20a Holy Family

Rome, Borghese Gallery, no. 332.

Panel, 64 x 46 (Pergola, 1951, 32, no. 332, gives 64 x 40).

Fig.RP.20b detail, Joseph

The Madonna’s face has a gray tonality.  Her cap is light blue going to white, and appearing transparent where it falls over her shoulders.  The band around her head is yellow-brown.  Her blouse is pink turning to white in the light and to dark wine red in the shadow.  Her mantle is sea-blue green and where it is turned back its lining is light gray-green tending to yellow in the light.  Her halo (and the others in the picture) are gold (painted or gold leaf), as is the border of her mantle seen behind Christ’s back and over her left thigh.  Her hair and Christ’s are very light brown.  Ridges of paint near the Virgin’s foot indicate that the drapery was originally slightly differently arranged.  Joseph wears a lavender shirt, turning white in the light and very dark purple in the shadow.  His cloak is yellow going to brown.  His hair is dark brown.  His flesh (as well as St. John’s) is grayish but with spots of orange on the lips, cheeks, and hands.  The sky is intensely blue fading to white at the horizon.  Green and brown tones in the landscape, with slightly pink roofs of the houses.


G. Giusti, La Galleria Borghese, Rome, n.d., 72, as Beccafumi.

Longhi, 1927, 87-88, as Rosso, around 1512.

Kusenberg, 1931, 130, as not by Rosso.

Ciaranfi, 1934, 1-12, as Florentine master of the sixteenth century (Rosso?).

Rinaldis, 1937, 32, as by Beccafumi in Florence at the beginning of his career.

Becherucci, 1944, 23-24 (1949, 24), Fig. 58, as Rosso, in the first years of the second decade of the sixteenth century.

Barocchi, 1950, 20-21, 245, Fig. 1, as Rosso, around 1512.

Pergola, 1951, 32, no. 332, as Rosso, and unfinished.

Longhi, 1951, 59 (1976, 99), as Rosso.

Bertini, 1952, 147, as Rosso.

Longhi, 1953, 8, as Rosso, around 1514, not around 1512 as stated in 1927.

Briganti, 1953, 51-52, as Rosso.  Ferrara, 1956, 32-33, and Figs.

Baldini in Mostra del Pontormo, 1956, 125-126, no. 156, Pl. 95, as early Rosso.

Oertel, 1956, 218, the attribution to Rosso hypothetical.

Shearman, 1957, II, 214-215, n. 2, as Beccafumi.

Gamba, 1957, 7-9, 13, Fig., as by Antonio di Donnino del Mazziere.

Barocchi, 1958, 236, as Rosso, 1512-1514.

Pergola, 1959, 50-51, no. 71, Fig. 71, with bibl., as Rosso.

Sinibaldi, 1960-1961, 34, as one of Rosso’s earliest works.

Freedberg, 1961, I, 248, 607, II, Fig., 327, as Rosso, around 1513-1514.

Berti, 1961, 35, as closely related to the Uffizi painting exhibited in Arezzo and attributed to Rosso c. 1514 [RP.6], and in Pittura del Cinquecento, Milan, 1961, 149, as not able to make a judgment.

Zeri, 1962, 222-223, 224, 227, 229, 231, Figs. 6-7, as by the Master of the Kress Landscapes, around 1515.

Carroll, 1964 (1976), I, Bk. I, 12, 17, 18, Bk. II, 1-73, 98-100, P. 5, Bk. III, Fig. 7, as Rosso, around 1514-1515; “Addition to the Preface,” 1976, vii, as not by Rosso.

Forlani, [1964], 167, under no. 27, as Rosso.

Borea, 1965, Color Pl. 1, as Rosso.

Borgo, 1968 (1976), 168, 365-367, under Cat. I, no. 31, as anonymous and related to the Madonna and Child at Bucknell [RP.11] and the Madonna and Child in Arezzo [from the Uffizi, RP.6], but as impossible to say if it is by the same assistant of Albertinelli who worked on the Bucknell painting.

Dal Poggetto, 1969, 16, 17, under no. 17, as by the Master of the Kress Landscapes.

Freedberg, 1972, 629, as by the Master of the Kress Landscapes.

Ragghianti, 1972, 44, by implication agreed with Zeri for taking it away from Rosso.

Berti, 1983, 45, 46, 59, n. 1.

Wilmes, 1985, 88-94, 146, 173, Fig. 1, as an early work by Rosso.

Fischer, 1989, 341, no. 70, as not by Rosso, related to the picture in Arezzo [from the Uffizi, RP.6], and as influenced by Fra Bartolommeo’s work done ten or twelve years before Rosso would have apprenticed at S. Marco.

Natali, in Natali and Cecchi, 1989, 16-17, did not suggest a name for the anonymous artist of this picture, but he added that if it is not by Rosso, it is by his alter ego, and suggests a relation to Berruguete.

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 42, as convincingly taken from Rosso by Zeri.

Pinelli, 1993, 60, and Fig. 44, as by the Master of the Kress Landscapes.

Franklin, 1994, 8, 271, n. 21, as not by Rosso.

Ciardi, 1994, 58, the attribution to Rosso still a problem, but as related to his Assumption.

Zeri’s attribution of this painting to the Master of the Kress Landscapes in 1962 has now been largely accepted, except by Wilmes and possibly Natali, who brought up Rosso’s name again.  The landscape is certainly the most accomplished part of the painting.  Borgo associated the picture with Albertinelli’s work and Fischer with Fra Bartolommeo’s.

Neither the style nor quality of this painting can be projected as characteristic of Rosso’s earliest works.  The Rosso elements in it, if that is what they are, would be after the fact, and are probably instead the result of reading into the image stylistic intentions that are not really there in the hope of finding an early work by Rosso.  Zeri’s attribution is plausible if not necessarily correct, and it identifies the kind of artist who is the author of this work.  Waldman, 1998, did not include this painting in the group of paintings by Zeri’s Master whom he identified as Giovanni Larciani.

The head of St. Joseph and the manner in which his garment is buttoned are similar to details in prints by Lucas van Leyden.1  Similar details appear in a drawing formerly in the Clinton Collection that has also been attributed, wrongly, to Rosso (Fig.RD.18).


1 Head very similar to male figure in Pilgrims Resting, B.149 (Fig.Van Leyden, Pilgrims), datable c. 1508 or earlier, and, but less specifically, to the head of St. Joseph in the Holy Family, B.85 (Fig.Van Leyden, Holy Family); buttoning as in Two Couples in the Forest, B.146 (Fig.Van Leyden, Couples).