© Soprintendenza Speciale PSAE Roma

Name of Object:

Bust of the Cardinal Scipione Borghese


Rome, Italy

Holding Museum:

Borghese Gallery



Type of object:



Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598, Naples-1680, Rome )

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):



H: 82 cm


Borghese Collection


In 1605 when Paul V became Pope, he immediately made his nephew Scipione a cardinal, despite his young age, quickly promoting him to a position comparable to secretary of state. This enormous power allowed the cardinal-nephew to create a splendid home and a marvellous art collection over a decade, in an unorthodox manner.
The bust portrait of Scipione by Gian Lorenzo Bernini was sculpted for his first major patron in 1632, after a creative hiatus of nearly seven years as a sculptor, during which he developed a new concept in portraits, more representative of the vibrant Baroque style.
The spontaneous and intense pose, the arrangement of the bust with the head turned in a slight movement, the attentive gaze and the mouth open in an expression of vague wonderment combine to create a highly expressive, almost colloquial relation with the viewer.
The cloth folds in the mozzetta (a short elbow length cape worn by Catholic clergy) and the detail of the small unfastened button showing us the live body beneath the clothes are an integral and involving part of the piece.
The marked confidence displayed by this excellent example of a Baroque style of which Bernini was a master gives an intimate and human dimension to the sitter, despite his official status.
With the bust almost finished, a hairline fracture opened up in the marble around the forehead, due to the stresses of the sculpting tools. The sculptor was forced to produce a second version of the bust at very short notice. This shows how little attention Bernini paid to his choice of marble, something that was of fundamental importance for other sculptors, such as Michelangelo. Despite the crack, the Cardinal requested that both works be delivered to him, keeping both in the Galleria Borghese.

View Short Description

Current Owner:

Italian State

Original Owner:

Scipione Borghese

How Object was obtained:

The Borghese Collection was acquired by the Italian State in 1902.

Selected bibliography:

Faldi, I., Galleria Borghese. Le sculture dal secolo XVI al secolo XIX, Rome, 1954, n.36, pp. 37–39.
Wittkower, R., Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque, London, 1955 (ed. Italiana Milano, 1990, cat. 31, p. 88).
Coliva, A., “Due Busti di Scipione Borghese”, in Bernini Scultore, La nascita del Barocco in Casa Borghese, catalogo della mostra, Rome, 1998, pp. 276–289.
Ulivi, M., Sorrentino, M. A., Chilosi, M. G., Rockwell, P., “Due Busti di Scipione Borghese”, in Bernini scultore e la tecnica esecutiva, Rome, 2002, pp. 216–233.

Additional Copyright Information:

Copyright image: Archivio fotografico Soprintendenza Speciale PSAE e Polo Museale della Città di Roma.

Citation of this web page:

Sofia Barchiesi, Maria Assunta  Sorrentino "Bust of the Cardinal Scipione Borghese" in Discover Baroque Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. http://www.museumwnf.org/thematicgallery/thg_galleries/database_item.php?itemId=objects;BAR;it;Mus11;1;en&id=portraits

Prepared by: Sofia BarchiesiSofia Barchiesi

SURNAME: Barchiesi
NAME: Sofia

TITLE: Author and Researcher

Sofia Barchiesi, a graduate and specialist in Art History and recipient of a scholarship from the School of Mediaeval and Modern Art History at Lumsa University, has been working with the Superintendency for Historical Artistic Heritage and the Museums of Rome since the late 1980s. She was responsible for cataloguing the art of the region and museums of Rome, studying the period of the Counter-Reformation particularly closely. She works with journals and writes essays, alternating her research and teaching work.
, Maria Assunta SorrentinoMaria Assunta Sorrentino

SURNAME: Sorrentino
NAME: Maria Assunta

AFFILIATION: Borghese Gallery, Rome

TITLE: Conservation Department Co-ordinator

Maria Assunta Sorrentino, holder a of a Diploma in Painting and Fresco Restoration and a degree in the Science of Cultural Heritage (historical-artistic), has worked at the Borghese Gallery since 1993, where she manages the Conservation Department and is in charge of the technical and organisational co-ordination of temporary exhibitions. She is currently working on the Ten Great Exhibitions project underway at the Borghese Gallery. She has published several papers on conservation and history in relation to the exhibition, with particular reference to artists such as Bernini, Domenichino, Canova and Caravaggio.

Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: IT1 02

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