The exhibition at Palazzo Barberini presents the Portrait of a young woman - The girl with the tuft - (oil on canvas, 80×65 cm), a masterpiece attributed to Michelangelo da Caravaggio.
Mentioned for the first time among the works of Cardinal Antonio Barberini in 1644, and later among those mentioned in his inventory of goods drawn up post mortem (1672), in which the "Portrait of a woman with a tuft of approximately 3 palms" reappears, “with carved gilded frame, hand of Caravaggio”. At the time, the painting was valued at 80 scudi: an undoubtedly high price for a small-sized canvas, certainly assigned to it by virtue of its presumed author. From the cardinal's collection the work remained in the Barberini family, passing from hand to hand; it is now in a private collection.
It immediately emerged that the painting in question appears similar to the Portrait of Fillide Melandroni by Caravaggio, which was lost in the Second World War during the bombing of Berlin, but documented by different photographs. The comparison between the Portrait of a young woman (or The girl with the tuft) and the Portrait of Fillide has in fact highlighted a great similarity between the two subjects, so much so as to suggest that they may be the same person.
Fillide Melandroni (1581-1614), courtesan of Sienese origin known in Rome for her conduct considered "scandalous" by her contemporaries, had been the mistress of Ranuccio Tomassoni, killed by Caravaggio in 1606 in a brawl that broke out during a game of “pallacorda”, probably in due to a debt. Fillide had arrived in Rome at a young age and was later linked to the poet and man of letters Giulio Strozzi. From the will of the woman dictated in 1614 we know that she left her portrait by Caravaggio to Giulio Strozzi. The courtesan died at the age of thirty-seven and, in her will, many dresses and several pairs of earrings are listed, identical in shape to the pendants worn both in the Portrait of Fillide and in the one exhibited here.
Most critics have identified Fillide as one of Caravaggio's favorite models, who painted her in the role of Saint Catherine (Thyssen Museum, Madrid), Magdalene, in the Martha and Magdalene preserved at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and perhaps Judith, in the Judith and Holofernes of the same Palazzo Barberini.
Photo credits: courtesy of the National Gallery of Ancient Art in Palazzo Barberini
Dal 1 maggio al 30 luglio 2023
Dal martedì alla domenica dalle 10.00 alle 19.00 (la biglietteria chiude alle 18.00)
Chiuso i lunedì
Presso la Sala Dei Ritratti
Martedì 16 maggio 2023, alle ore 17.00
Conferenza di Maria Cristina Terzaghi su La ragazza col ciuffo che viene esposto per la prima volta al pubblico.