BORGIANNI, Orazio
(b. 1574, Roma, d. 1616, Roma)

Holy Family with St Elizabeth, the Young St John the Baptist and an Angel

c. 1609
Oil on canvas 257 x 202 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome

Once in the Roman convent of San Silvestro in Capite, this picture remained in place there until 1922, when the convent building (already suppressed in 1871 ) was transformed into the Ministry of Public Works. The painting is not recorded in old sources or guidebooks, perhaps because it was kept on the cloistered side of the complex and was inaccessible to the public.

The placement of the picture in the chronology of the painter's career is somewhat controversial. Many experts accept 1609, on the basis of documents relating to the decoration of the convent, and of substantial stylistic and typological comparisons between this picture and the artist's 1608 Sezze altarpiece.

The overall composition of the canvas depends on Raphaelesque prototypes such as the Holy Family with Saint Elizabeth (Paris, Louvre Museum). The famous basket at the lower right, meanwhile, has a precedent in Giulio Romano's Madonna of the Cat, now in Naples (Museum of Capodimonte). Nevertheless, the close point of view, the strong and distinct light source, and the thickening of the shadows all leave no doubt about Borgianni's tight adhesion to naturalistic modes. Above all, Borgianni's naturalism shines forth in the extraordinary optical rendering of the basket of linens at the lower right.