One of the most fascinating and complex personalities in seventeenth-century Italy, Salvator Rosa was an accomplished painter, printmaker, poet, and actor. Here he shows himself inscribing a skull with the Greek words: “Behold, whither, eventually.” The wreath of cypress is an emblem of mourning, while on the table is a book by the Roman stoic philosopher Seneca. According to the inscription, the picture was a gift to Rosa’s friend Giovanni Battista Ricciardi (1624–1686), a brilliant man of letters from Pisa.
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Fig. 1. Painting in frame: overall
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Fig. 2. Painting in frame: corner
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Fig. 3. Painting in frame: angled corner
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Fig. 4. Profile drawing of frame. W 3 7/16 in. 8.8 cm (T. Newbery)
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Artist:Salvator Rosa (Italian, Arenella (Naples) 1615–1673 Rome)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:39 x 31 1/4 in. (99.1 x 79.4 cm)
Credit Line:Bequest of Mary L. Harrison, 1921
The Artist: Painter, poet, draftsman, actor, and academician, Salvator Rosa was one of the most original artists and sparkling wits of seventeenth-century Italy. Rosa was born in 1615 in Arenella, just outside of Naples, and received his early artistic training in the studio of his brother-in-law, Francesco Fracanzano, and later with Aniello Falcone and Jusepe de Ribera. With the encouragement of Giovanni Lanfranco, Rosa moved to Rome in 1635, where his dynamic landscapes, improvised theatrical troupe, and wild personality brought him notoriety; perhaps going too far, the Neapolitan found himself in a heated feud with Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) in 1639. The following year, Rosa accepted the invitation to the court of Cardinal Giovan Carlo de’ Medici (1611–1663) in Florence, but Rosa’s distaste for the dissimulation required to succeed at court painting led to an eventual parting from the Medici around 1645. Rosa remained in Florence and the Tuscan countryside in the company of his learned friends from the Accademia dei Percossi (The Academy of the Beaten) until 1649 when he returned to Rome. He remained there until his death in 1675.
Rosa garnered international fame for his vibrant battle scenes and landscapes that capture the wild, warm glow of the Campanian coast, a foil to the pastoral and classical models of his contemporaries. But the self-styled pictor succensor (fiery painter) wanted to be known as a history painter. Rosa devoted his mature career to projecting that persona through paintings unveiled at public exhibitions, campaigns of etchings, and the satirical poetry he wrote to rail against the world. His subjects were self-selected—consistently esoteric and obscure narratives from history, mythology, and even witchcraft—demonstrating an avant-garde commitment to his artistic and personal freedom. The artist once famously quipped that patrons should only ever be allowed to dictate the measurements of a canvas. This quest for artistic freedom and his relationship to the development of the Sublime through increasingly savage and powerful landscapes aligned him for later generations as a proto-Romantic, immortalized in Henry Walpole’s epitaph: “Precipes, mountains, torrents, wolves, rumblings—Salvator Rosa.” But Rosa’s own words, inscribed on his etching The Genius of Salvator Rosa (2012.136.847), more accurately capture his self-aggrandizing and philosophical character: “Noble, free, fiery painter, and fair / scorner of wealth and death. This is my genius.”
The Portrait: By the dim light of a waning crescent moon, surrounded by weighty tomes, a young aristocratic man, elegantly dressed in a somber black coat, writes in Greek on a skull: “behold whither, eventually.” His head is crowned by a wreath of funerary cypress, and curled locks flow down his shoulders. Barely visible on his shadowed face, a single tear falls from his downward cast eyes—seventeenth-century melodrama at its finest. Salvator Rosa was well-known for his dramatic personality, but no other portrait quite captures the serious and philosophical persona the Neapolitan artist strove to project as does this Self-Portrait. The atmosphere of mysterious melancholy is heightened by a desolate background, an overcast sky with murky wisps of clouds that appear like mist across the canvas. A crumpled sheet of white paper wedged in between books bears the dedication: “Saluatore Rosa dipinse nell'Eremo / e dono a Gio. Batt. Ricciardi / suo Amico” (Salvator Rosa painted this in a solitary place and gave it to his friend Giovanni Battista Ricciardi). Rosa met Ricciardi, a lecturer of moral philosophy, in Florence in the 1640s (the circumstances are unknown), and it is thanks to their extensive epistolary relationship that we have over four hundred surviving letters from Rosa to his amico vero, in which he discusses all aspects of his life and art.
Given the inscription and the figure’s resemblance to Rosa’s features, The Met’s painting had long been understood as a self-portrait of the artist, until Federico Zeri (1970) hypothesized in an unpublished manuscript that the sitter be identified as Ricciardi instead. Ubaldo Meroni (1978) then published Ricciardi’s inventory that referred to the painting’s subject as simply a “philosopher,” and, referring to an excerpt from a seventeenth-century manuscript by Cinelli Cavoli, Meroni supported the claim for Ricciardi as the sitter. While several scholars agreed with this assessment (notably Spike 1984, Ferrari 1986, Preti 1986 and 1988, Scott 1995, and Daprà 2008), others had always accepted Rosa as the sitter (including Mahoney 1977, Wallace 1979, Finaldi 1994, and Stolzenburg 1999), or could see the merits of both arguments (Langdon 1973, Limentani 1979, and Hoare 2018).
Based on a thorough visual comparison to other examples where Rosa depicted himself, Wendy Wassyng Roworth (1988) convincingly argued that The Met’s picture is in fact a self-portrait. It has been well-established that Rosa inserted himself into the subjects of his paintings: he is a bystander in the early Doubting Thomas (ca. 1639, Museo Civico, Viterbo) and a soldier holding a shield with the inscription “saro” (“I will be” in Italian, or the first two letters of his name and surname) in the Battle between the Christians and Turks (1642, Palazzo Pitti, Florence). Rosa also painted himself more conventionally in his Self-Portrait (Detroit Institute of Arts; 66.191), Allegory of Philosophy (National Gallery, London; 4680), Self-Portrait as a Painter (Gallerie degli Ufizzi, Florence), and Self-Portrait as Pascariello (private collection, London). Similar to the present picture, many of these works have also been questioned as self-portraits, but there is relative consensus that all of these pictures depict the artist captured in Giovanni Battistia Bonacina’s 1662 engraving, Portrait of Salvator Rosa (British Museum, London; W,7.5). These varied representations contain the general markers of Rosa. As Giambattista Passeri described in his biography, he was of medium height, but with a curious and quick possession, and had attractively dark skin, lively deep blue eyes, and curly black hair that fell down his shoulders “like waves.” Passeri’s physical description, like Rosa’s self-portraits, also veered into character projections; the darkness of his features echoed “the sharpness of his replies, a sign that he kept everyone around him intimidated, and no one dared to oppose his ideas, because he was obstinate, and held fast to his opinions.” From these known self-portraits, we can also ascertain the prominent brow, aquiline nose, and full hair that are distinctive of Rosa’s swarthy, Neapolitan countenance—features that are all prominent in the group of preparatory drawings that survive.
Three key seventeenth and eighteenth-century documents also shed light on the picture and the sitter’s identity. The first is a letter from August 28, 1648, in which Rosa’s friend, the painter Giovanni Navarretti, described seeing the picture: “I saw a philosopher contemplating a skull by Salvator Rosa, which was so vigorously dark, the majority of the lights in half tones, so freshly painted and without retouching and they say it was done without sketches underneath, which I cannot resolve in my mind. It had a head crowned with cypress and made with incredible diligence, which was incredibly fine to see so close to the truth” (Veddi un filosofo contemplante una morte di mano di Salvator Rosa, il quale era tanto assai gagliardo di scuri i maggior chiari mezza tinta, toccato freschissimo e senza ritoccar niente e dissero fatto sensa bozzare, ma di questo non mi risolvo. Haveva la testa contornata di cipresso e fatto con molta diligenza che era finitissimo per veder da vicino la verità). Similarly, the 1687 inventory of Ricciardi’s estate mentions “a large painting with a white wood frame depicting a philosopher who writes on a skull” (un quadro grande con cornice di albero bianche dipintovi un filosofo che scrive sopra una testa di morte). Unfortunately, neither of these descriptions identify the sitter; both simply refer to him as a filosofo, signaling his metaphorical identity. Helen Langdon (2010) has suggested that, as a painter, Navarretti was more likely interested in the techniques of painting, and took the sitter for granted. In 1767, however, Ricciardi’s heirs lent the painting to an exhibition at the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata in Florence, where it was described in the catalogue as “a self-portrait in the act of writing on a skull” (un autoritratto in atto di scrivere sopra un teschio di morto). As Roworth argues, Ricciardi’s family likely knew whether the picture was Ricciardi, Rosa, or just a generic teste, thus their testimony can more confidently assign the sitter’s identity as Rosa himself.
The discrepancies between these pictures are attributed to the way in which Rosa’s self-portraits—like those of his predecessors, such as Van Dyck or Giorgione—blur the boundaries between naturalism and idealism. Alexandra Hoare (2018) has convincingly argued that Rosa’s self-portraits did not aim to capture a precise likeness, and can be better understood as allegorical self-portraits. In some self-portraits he portrays himself with idealized features in the guise of various characters—aspects of his personality to display, even aspirationally. In seventeenth-century Florence, “performative” portraits were popular amongst Rosa's milieu, including Lorenzo Lippi, Carlo Dolci, and Francesco Furini. Therefore, the key to understanding the present picture is to untangle the social and artistic role that Rosa presents: that of a melancholic poet-philosopher.
The Subject: Rosa’s self-portrait is not just an idealized representation of himself, it is also a freundschaftsbild (friendship painting) specifically made for his lifelong friend, confidant, and advisor, Giovanni Battista Ricciardi. While we do not know whether Rosa or Ricciardi devised the picture, the friendship painting (a genre invented in Florence in the fifteenth century) is comparable to other examples, such as Nicolas Poussin’s complex Self-Portrait for Chantelou (1650, Musée du Louvre, Paris). Rosa’s Self-Portrait is focused on a love for ancient philosophy, poetry, satire, theater, and the arts shared between the two friends. Like Rosa, Ricciardi also wrote poetry; Sotto rigida stella, a poem that Rosa called a canzone dell’amicitia (song of friendship), is thought to be in response to this portrait (see Langdon 2010). Ricciardi consistently mused over human misery and the brevity of life in his poetry, inspired by the moral virtues of Seneca and the Stoics. In La Forza del Dolore, Ricciardi discusses infinite sorrows that cause him to cry to the point that only thoughts of death can soothe him—a mood echoed in the Self-Portrait.
Rosa’s picture is a complex meditation on life, death, friendship, and the artist himself. In one sense, it can be understood as an image of vanitas and memento mori for contemplation of death and the fleeting nature of life; the skull and its inscription are a prime example of the pictorial focus on mortality. Michael Zellerman-Rohrer (2014) explains that the Greek inscription written on the skull not only has no identifiable source, but also had been mistranslated as “Behold, Whither, When” as far back as the 1930s. He argues instead that the accent in the third word actually alters the translation to “sometime” or “eventually,” giving the entire phrase the sense that “Death, figured by the skull, is the universal endpoint; only the time of arrival is uncertain." While skulls commonly appear in vanitas imagery, the depiction of the act of writing on the skull has very few precedents. Sybille Ebert-Schiferrer (2008) identified a Saints Cosmas and Damian by Battistello Caracciolo (ca. 1618-19, private collection, Padua), and Richard Wallace (1968) suggested a 1614 drawing by Hendrick Goltzius, Young Man Holding a Skull and Tulip (Morgan Library and Museum, New York; III, 145), that could have been models for Rosa. The contemplative mood and the skull are also evocative of representations of Saint Jerome, as well as hermits or philosophers more generally, such as Ribera’s Saint Jerome Reading (1986.1180.368) or Rosa’s own Philosopher Contemplating a Skull (Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford).
The skull itself rests on a book with a spine that reveals the pentiment “SENECA,” referring to the ancient philosopher whose writings on the virtues of friendship, rest, and freedom embodied the Stoic ideals that Rosa often sought to uphold. In his Epistles and other writings, Seneca praised quietude and true friendship, and urged his followers to contemplate death to conquer their fears. Given that Rosa and Ricciardi so admired Stoic philosophy, it is surprising that the artist painted out Seneca’s name. While we do not know why Rosa would have chosen to do this, Helen Langdon has suggested that his devotion to Seneca was more fickle than it seemed. When Rosa experienced hardships in the 1650s, he was quick to denounce the philosopher, bitterly citing that Stoic ideals only work for the rich.
By transforming the more passive act of contemplation into active writing, the artist demonstrates not only his iconographic inventiveness, but also control over his self-proclaimed melancholia. In early modern humorology, the melancholic temperament was thought to be caused by an excess of black bile, a condition that produced both physical and intellectual results. Rosa frequently complained about his bilious nature, once proclaiming himself to be “all bile, all spirit, all fire” (tutto bile, tutto spirito, tutto fuoco). As Hoare (2018) has demonstrated, the ways in which Rosa manipulated or idealized his own features served to emphasize intellectual associations of melancholy. For example, in his 1586 De humana physiognomonia, Giambattista Della Porta attributed aquiline noses with regality and magnanimity, while the furrowed brow signaled nobility. Furthermore, Della Porta as well as Aristotle explicitly linked dark, rugged skin with melancholy.
Melancholia was thought to have a dual nature, allegorically represented in Albrecht Dürer’s iconic engraving Melancholia I (43.106.1). Uncontrolled, melancholia was an affliction that produced laziness, depression, and delusions, but when it was mastered and put to active use, it signaled genius, aligned with the great liberal artists. The moon represented in the upper left corner of the engraving alludes to this dual nature through its waxing and waning; in one of Ricciardi’s poems, he refers to the moon as likewise symbolic of the inconstancy of fortune. Rosa’s interpretation of the melancholic man was inspired not only by Dürer, but also drew inspiration from Ribera’s Poet (30.54.69). In bringing together Dürer’s and Ribera’s precedents, serious allegories with the classic hand-to-head pose of melancholy, Rosa also connected the important associations shared by both the artist and his friend. Even the books surrounding the filosofo are old and worn—like those the two often exchanged, well-worn from provoking their lifelong, erudite discussions. As Hoare has recognized, in painting their dual natures in his own self-portrait, Rosa was also showcasing the one aspect of their personalities in which Rosa was clearly the superior: painting.
The Picture: The painting was likely made around 1647, when both Rosa and Ricciardi were often staying with the Maffei family at their estate in Monterufoli near Volterra—an retreat of idyllic country pleasure, intellectual stimulation, and quietude away from the city that Rosa would regularly complain about missing. The picture can be dated on account of Navarretti’s letter of 1648, and fits stylistically within the later years of Rosa’s stay in Tuscany, when he was beginning to explore with depicting larger, more commanding figures and elegant sfumato, yet still painted with the highly finished and finely detailed qualities he had absorbed from Jusepe Ribera and the bamboccianti earlier in his career. As Caterina Volpi (2014) has noted, these philosophical interests were cultivated in Rosa during his time in Tuscany with Ricciardi, particularly within the circles of poets, scientists, and intellectuals of the Academies of the Percossi and Stravaganti. Philosophical explorations would permeate Rosa’s mature oevure, particularly in pictures like Moral Philosophy (Palazzo Enzenberg, Caldaro, Italy) or Democritus (National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen; KMS4112), earning him the epitaph, “the painter of moral things.”
Hoare (2018) thoughtfully summed up The Met’s Self-Portrait as “a pictorial homage to the ideal of the moral and melancholic poet-philosopher, an identity to which both Rosa and Ricciardi aspired and one that they achieved through the intimate and intellectual reciprocities of their unique friendship." In his book of maxims, Rosa wrote “One half of me is myself, and the other half is my friend” (La metà di me sono io e l’altra metà è il mio amico), echoing Seneca who said that “true friendship is, in fact, a union of souls.” Thus Rosa portrays himself surrounded by the very objects and ideals important to his best friend in an almost-double portrait, a conceit that plays on presence and absence to stir the affection and intellects of the separated friends.
Hannah Segrave 2019
 Pascariello was a character from a commedia dell’arte he frequently performed in the streets of Rome.  Giambattista Passeri, Vite de pittori, scultori ed architetti che anno lavorato in Roma, morti dal 1641 fino al 1673, Rome, 1772, pp. 436–37.  Mahoney 1977, group 49.  Paliaga 2009, p. 211.  Meroni 1978, p. 95.  Roworth 1988, p. 109 n. 23.  Hoare 2018, pp. 179–83.  Hoare 2018, pp. 180–203.  Salvator Rosa, Il teatro della Politica, sentenziosi afforismi della prudenza, 1669, no. 310.  Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Epistles, 6.2.
Inscription: Inscribed: (on paper) Saluatore Rosa dipinse nell'Eremo / e dono a Gio. Batt. Ricciardi / suo Amico (Salvator Rosa painted this in a solitary place and gave it to his friend Giovanni Battista Ricciardi); (on skull, in Greek) Behold, whither, eventually; (on book) SENECA [pentiment]
Giovanni Battista Ricciardi, Florence and palazzo Strozzavolpe, near Poggibonsi (until d. 1686; inv. April 22, 1687, folio 180, "un quadro grande . . . dipintovi un filosofo che scrive sopra una testa di morto"); by descent to Francesco Ricciardi, ?Florence (by 1729); by descent to Niccolò Ricciardi Serguido, palazzo Strozzavolpe (by 1767); James Thomson, New York (bought in Florence; about 1836–48; sale, Dumont, New York, March 22, 1848, to Livingston); Anson Livingston, New York (1848–d. 1873); his daughter, Mary Livingston Harrison, New York (1873–d. 1921)
Florence. SS. Annunziata. "SS. Annunziata," 1706, unnumbered cat. (as "Ritratto di Salvador Rosa di sua mano," lent by Sig. Ricciardi).
Florence. SS. Annunziata. "SS. Annunziata," 1729, unnumbered cat. (p. 32, as "Ritratto di Salvador Rosa fatto di sua mano," lent by Sig. Francesco Ricciardi).
Florence. SS. Annunziata. "SS. Annunziata," 1767, unnumbered cat. (as "Ritratto di Salvator Rosa, dipinto da lui medesimo, in atto di scrivere sopra un Teschio di morto," lent by Sig. Cav. Niccolò Ricciardi Serguidi).
Wellesley College Museum. "Salvator Rosa in America," April 20–June 5, 1979, no. 3.
Sarasota. John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. "Baroque Portraiture in Italy: Works from North American Collections," December 7, 1984–February 3, 1985, no. 58.
Hartford, Conn. Wadsworth Atheneum. "Baroque Portraiture in Italy: Works from North American Collections," March 20–May 20, 1985, no. 58.
Florence. Palazzo Strozzi. "Il Seicento fiorentino: Arte a Firenze da Ferdinando I a Cosimo III," December 21, 1986–May 4, 1987, no. 1.218.
Berlin. Neue Nationalgalerie. "Melancholie: Genie und Wahnsinn in der Kunst," February 17–May 7, 2006, not in catalogue.
Naples. Museo di Capodimonte. "Salvator Rosa: tra mito e magia," April 18–June 29, 2008, no. 5 (as "Ritratto di Giovan Battista Ricciardi").
London. Dulwich Picture Gallery. "Salvator Rosa (1615–1673): Bandits, Wilderness and Magic," September 15–November 28, 2010, no. 5.
Fort Worth. Kimbell Art Museum. "Salvator Rosa (1615–1673): Bandits, Wilderness and Magic," December 12, 2010–March 27, 2011, no. 5.
Brisbane. Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," June 12–October 17, 2021, unnumbered cat.
Osaka. Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," November 13, 2021–January 16, 2022.
Tokyo. National Art Center. "European Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," February 9–May 30, 2022.
Giovanni Navarretti. Ricordi di pittura. August 28, 1648, c. 5v [Schippisi family archives, Piacenza; published in Ref. Paliaga 2009, p. 219], mentions seeing a painting by Rosa depicting a philosopher contemplating a skull, without identifying the sitter.
Inventory of Giovanni Battista Ricciardi. April 22, 1687 [Archivio di Stato, Florence, Notarile moderno, Notaio Antonio Del Vigna, protocollo n. 21316, fol. 178–180v., folio 180; also in the "Filza" 10730 (1687–90); published in Ref. Meroni 1978, p. 95; Getty no. I-4336], lists it as "un quadro grande . . . dipintovi un filosofo che scrive sopra una testa di morto".
Giovanni Cinelli Calvoli. La Toscana letterata ovvero storia degli scrittori fiorentini. [before 1705] [Biblioteca Nationale Centrale, Florence, Magliabechiani manuscripts, classe IX, codice 67; published in Ref. Meroni 1978, p. 105], describes it as "Ricciardi in abito filosofico ritratto in atto di contemplare un teschio umano, nel cui quadro son queste parole scritte: 'Salvator Rosa dipinse nell'Eremo e donò a Gio Batta Ricciardi suo amico'".
Pio Bonso Bonsi inIl trionfo delle bell'arti. Exh. cat., Accademici del Disegno. Florence, 1767, p. 32, lists it as a portrait by Salvator Rosa, painted by himself in the act of writing on a skull, in the collection of Sig. Cav. Niccolò Ricciardi Serguidi.
Serie degli uomini i piu' illustri in pittura, scultura, e architettura. Vol. 11, Florence, 1775, p. 69 n. 3, mentions it as a self-portrait by Rosa in the collection of Sig. Cav. Ricciardi.
Francesco Inghirami. Storia della Toscana. Vol. 14, Fiesole, 1844, p. 176, describes it as a picture representing Ricciardi dressed as a philosopher in the act of contemplating a skull, which was presented to Ricciardi by Rosa.
Arthur McComb. The Baroque Painters of Italy: An Introductory Historical Survey. Cambridge, Mass., 1934, p. 87, as a self-portrait.
Eleanor C. Marquand. Letter to Margaret D. Sloane. January 26, 1935, notes that the Greek scholar Adolph Cotton translates the words on the skull as "Behold, whither, when," but cannot identify a source for them.
Eleanor C. Marquand. Letter to Margaret D. Sloane. January 17, 1935, states that the garland in this picture is made from the cypress of southern Europe, which was regarded as symbolic of mourning.
H. Voss inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 29, Leipzig, 1935, p. 2, as a self-portrait; records the painting's inscription as: "Salvator Rosa dipinse nell'Eremo e donò a Gio. Battª Ricardi suo amico".
Aldo de Rinaldis. Lettere inedite di Salvator Rosa a G. B. Ricciardi. Rome, 1939, p. 73 n. 3, ill. opp. p. 8, as a self-portrait, almost like a Saint Jerome; notes that the hermitage of the inscription was probably Camaldoli, where Rosa went in the summer of 1645.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 259–60, ill., as "Portrait of the Artist".
Judith Kaye Reed. "Presenting Salvator Rosa, Early Romantic." Art Digest 22 (March 15, 1948), p. 17, regrets that this portrait was not included in the Salvator Rosa exhibition at Durlacher Galleries.
A. M. F[rankfurter]. "Inventor of Romanticism." Art News 47 (March 1948), p. 52.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 86.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), pp. 4, 24, ill.
Uberto Limentani. Letter. 1958, rejects the identification of the sitter in this picture as Rosa, identifying him with the man Rosa represented in his portraits in the National Gallery, London, and in the collection of Earl Grosvenor; observes that the MMA painting is certainly the one described by Inghirami [see Ref. 1844].
Jacob Bean. Dessins romains du XVIIe siècle: Artistes italiens contemporains de Poussin. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1959, p. 37, under no. 63, believes the recto and verso of Louvre drawing 9730 contain early ideas for this self-portrait and mentions another related drawing in the Teyler Foundation, Haarlem; decribes the sitter on the recto as crowned with laurel.
Ottilie G. Boetzkes. Salvator Rosa: Seventeenth-Century Italian Painter, Poet, and Patriot. New York, 1960, p. 140, 188, no. 80, ill., refers to it as an idealized self-portrait.
Walter Vitzthum. "Seicento Drawings at the Cabinet des Dessins." Burlington Magazine 102 (February 1960), p. 76, observes that the wreath is not laurel but cypress.
Luigi Salerno. Salvator Rosa. Milan, 1963, pp. 50, 123, no. 40, pl. 40, notes that this generally accepted self-portrait might have been executed between February and May 1659 when Rosa was visiting Ricciardi; points out that two related drawings are in the Louvre, Paris.
W. V[itzthum]. "Publications Received." Master Drawings 1 (Winter 1963), p. 59, considers a drawing in the National Gallery of South Africa at Capetown to be a study for this self-portrait.
Robert Oertel. "Die Vergänglichkeit der Künste: Ein Vanitas-Stilleben von Salvator Rosa." Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, 3rd ser., 14 (1963), pp. 108, 117 nn. 13–14, dates it to the mid-1640s; notes that the hermitage mentioned in the inscription was probably Vallombrosa, where the artist stayed on numerous occasions between 1642 and 1648 in the villa of Rafaello Landini; sees in the melancholy air of this self-portrait a "fashionable coquetry," especially in the casually opened jacket and the enticingly long falling locks of the sitter.
Valdo Zocchi. Salvator Rosa a Firenze. Florence, 1963, pl. 1, suggests it was painted at Camaldoli, where Rosa went by 1645.
Richard W. Wallace. "The Genius of Salvator Rosa." Art Bulletin 47 (December 1965), pp. 474–75, believes the word "Seneca," faintly legible on the spine of the book, refers to Rosa's Stoic attitudes; considers the cypress wreath on the artist's head to have a "funerary significance".
Richard W. Wallace. "The Figure Paintings of Salvator Rosa." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1965, pp. 13, 16, 38, 54, 56, 137 n. 119, fig. 21, dates it "probably 1659" and sees it as an expression of "Rosa's fascination with the theme of human fragility and evanescence"; observes that the artist portrays himself in a "Saint Jerome-like situation"; notes that the pictorial type is repeated in four of Rosa's drawings: two in the Louvre, Paris, one in the Teyler Museum, Haarlem, and a fourth in the Uffizi, Florence.
Alfred Moir inArt in Italy, 1600–1700. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1965, p. 139, under no. 153, observes that this self-portrait is "signed in such a manner as to imply a date of 1659".
Catherine Monbeig Goguel and Walter Vitzthum. Le dessin à Naples du XVIe siècle au XVIIIe siècle. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1967, p. 21, no. 40, date it between February and May 1659 when Rosa was staying with Ricciardi; note that although this painting is traditionally called a self-portrait on the basis of the inscription, Zeri considers it to be a portrait of Ricciardi.
Richard W. Wallace. "Salvator Rosa's "Justice Appearing to the Peasants"." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 30 (1967), p. 432 n. 1.
Françoise Viatte in Roseline Bacou. Great Drawings of the Louvre Museum. Vol. 2, The Italian Drawings. New York, 1968, unpaginated, under no. 93, dates it between February and May 1659.
John Paoletti. "The Italian School: Problems and Suggestions." Apollo 88 (December 1968), p. 428, as a self-portrait.
Richard W. Wallace. "Salvator Rosa's 'Democritus' and 'L'Umana Fragilità'." Art Bulletin 50 (March 1968), pp. 21–23, 27, fig. 2, notes that this self-portrait relates to "the Riberesque motive of the isolated figure with a skull"; observes that the painting has "the skull, books, pen, and paper so often seen in the paintings of St. Jerome as a solitary, scholarly penitent, and the inscription on the piece of paper declares that it was painted 'nell'Eremo'"; finds the way in which the skull is held and contemplated in this picture reminiscent of Domenico Fetti's painting of "Melancholy" (fig. 4, Accademia, Venice) and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione's etching of the subject (fig. 5); also suggests that Rosa may have been influenced by the well-established tradition of the portrait with a skull in Northern sixteenth- and seventeenth-century art.
Oreste Ferrari. "Salvator Rosa." Storia dell'arte no. 1/2 (1969), pp. 210–11, as a self-portrait.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Unpublished manuscript for catalogue of Neapolitan paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. [ca. 1970], consider it to be the portrait of Ricciardi described by Giovanni Cinelli Calvoli [see Ref. 1705]; note that it bears no resemblance to Rosa's "authenticated" self-portrait in the Uffizi.
Nancy Rash Fabbri. "Salvator Rosa's Engraving for Carlo de' Rossi and his Satire, 'Invidia'." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 33 (1970), p. 329, sees this portrait as an illustration of Rosa's conviction, evidenced in his satires, that "artists should be learned, well versed in science, history, and mythology, and philosophy as well as painters".
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 177, 517, 606, as a portrait of Ricciardi.
Michael Kitson and Helen Langdon inSalvator Rosa. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. London, 1973, pp. 11, 26–27, no. 22, pl. 10, observe that it can be viewed either as a self-portrait or as a portrait of Ricciardi depending on how one interprets the words "in retreat"; point out that Rosa regularly visited Ricciardi at the villa of Giulio Maffei, at Monterufoli, in summers during the late 1640s; note that the painting "seems undoubtedly to represent the same man as the portrait in the Palazzo Chigi-Saracini, Siena, which is usually assumed to be a self-portrait"; consider the features in the MMA picture to be "a little harder to reconcile with those of the National Gallery [London] 'Self-portrait'"; date the MMA painting, if it does in fact represent Rosa, to the early 1650s at the latest.
Luigi Salerno. "Salvator Rosa at the Hayward Gallery." Burlington Magazine 115 (December 1973), p. 827, considers a date of June 1640 "now stylistically acceptable"; finds plausible Zeri's hypothesis that the portrait is of Ricciardi.
Luigi Salerno. "Salvator Rosa: postille alla mostra di Londra." Arte illustrata nos. 55–56 (1973), p. 409, favors dating it 1640 and identifying the sitter as Ricciardi.
Fabia Borroni Salvadori. "Le esposizioni d'arte a Firenze dal 1674 al 1767." Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 18, no. 1 (1974), pp. 119–20, lists it in exhibitions in Florence in 1706, 1729, and 1767.
Luigi Salerno. L'opera completa di Salvator Rosa. Milan, 1975, pp. 86–87, no. 27, ill., tentatively refers to it as a portrait of Ricciardi.
Helen Langdon. "Salvator Rosa: His Ideas and Development as an Artist." PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 1975, suggests it was painted in Monterufoli where Rosa stayed in 1647 and 1650 [see Ref. Langdon 1973].
Peter Tomory. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings before 1800. Sarasota, 1976, p. 158, includes it in a list of known self-portraits by Rosa.
Michael Mahoney. The Drawings of Salvator Rosa. Vol. 1, New York, 1977, pp. 103, 121, 471–76, pl. 37, publishes and illustrates four drawings related to this picture, which he dates to the mid-1650s; notes that the "eremo" of the inscription "could refer to some country retreat of the Florentine period, Ricciardi's own villa, Strozzavolpe, for example," or "it may allude figuratively to Rome where Rosa missed Ricciardi's companionship"; publishes a drawing in the Wadsworth Atheneum as possibly an idea for a female portrait scheme similar in iconography to the MMA painting; considers unsound Zeri's hypothesis that this is not a self-portrait but a portrait of Ricciardi.
Wendy Wassyng Roworth. "Pictor Succensor": A Study of Salvator Rosa as Satirist, Cynic and Painter. PhD diss., Bryn Mawr College. New York, 1978, pp. 258–59, 271 nn. 55, 57, fig. 56, dates it between 1647 and 1650 and believes it was painted during the summer in Monterufoli or in Rome; suggests that this portrait, presumably made and given in friendship to Ricciardi, is similar in type to two self-portraits by Poussin, of 1649 and 1650, which were given to his friends and patrons Chantelou and Pointel.
Ubaldo Meroni. Lettere e altri documenti intorno alla storia della pittura: Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione detto il Grechetto, Salvator Rosa, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Monzambano, Italy, 1978, pp. 7–8, 95 n. 3, p. 105 n.1, considers it a portrait of Ricciardi, emphatically rejecting its identification as a self-portrait; publishes the Ricciardi inventory of 1687 and tentatively identifies the MMA painting as the "philosopher who writes on a skull"; also publishes an excerpt from Cinelli Calvoli's seventeenth-century manuscript [see Ref. 1705], and notes that it confirms the identification of the sitter as Ricciardi.
Richard W. Wallace. Salvator Rosa in America. Exh. cat., Wellesley College Museum. Wellesley, Mass., 1979, pp. 11–13, 21, no. 3, fig. 3, as a self-portrait.
Richard W. Wallace. The Etchings of Salvator Rosa. Princeton, 1979, pp. 43–44, ill., as a self-portrait; suggests that Rosa "may have realized that the writings of Seneca were not the best support for the quietist attitudes so evident in the 'Self Portrait with a Skull' and for that reason he may have painted over the 'Seneca' on the spine of the book".
Uberto Limentani. Letter to Shelley E. Zuraw. August 10, 1979, states that "the balance of probability points towards the painting being a self-portrait, as the features of the sitter appear to bear some resemblance to those of the self-portrait in the National Gallery, London"; suggests Strozzavolpe as the possible "eremo" of the inscription, with the Villa of Monterufoli, belonging to the Maffei family, as a possible alternative; believes that "'eremo', in Rosa's parlance, meant a country retreat, away from the bustle of towns".
Uberto Limentani. Letter to Shelley E. Zuraw. July 24, 1979, states that he "would not rule out the possibility of the features of the sitter of the Metropolitan Museum painting being the same as those of the self-portrait in the National Gallery, London: possibly, then, a somewhat idealized self-portrait, in keeping with the Stoic notions which Rosa shared with his friend Ricciardi; possibly, a portrait of someone else, the strongest candidate in this case being Ricciardi".
Ubaldo Meroni. "Salvator Rosa: autoritratti e ritratti di amici." Prospettiva no. 25 (April 1981), pp. 65, 68 n. 2, fig. 1.
John T. Spike. Baroque Portraiture in Italy: Works from North American Collections. Exh. cat., John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Sarasota, 1984, pp. 158–59, no. 58, ill., as a portrait of Ricciardi; notes that the tear on the sitter's cheek was uncovered when the picture was cleaned; regards this painting as a "letter-perfect exposition of two tenets of stoic philosophy: the active contemplation of death and its inevitability, and remorse over the vanity of man".
Oreste Ferrari. "L'iconografia dei filosofi antichi nella pittura del sec. XVII in Italia." Storia dell'arte 57 (1986), p. 133, as a portrait of Ricciardi.
Monica Preti. Il Seicento Fiorentino: Arte a Firenze da Ferdinando I a Cosimo III. Exh. cat., Florence Palazzo Strozzi. Florence, 1986, vol. 1, p. 394, no. 1.218, ill. (color); vol. 2, p. 157, tentatively calls it a portrait of Ricciardi and suggests a date of about 1645.
Monica Preti inLa pittura in Italia: il Seicento. Ed. Mina Gregori and Erich Schleier. Milan, 1988, vol. 2, p. 868, as a portrait of Ricciardi; dates it to the early 1640s.
Wendy Wassyng Roworth. "The Consolations of Friendship: Salvator Rosa's Self-portrait for Giovanni Battista Ricciardi." Metropolitan Museum Journal 23 (1988), pp. 103–24, fig. 1, as a self-portrait painted in Rome in late 1656 or 1657 as a "friendship painting" for Ricciardi; refutes the hypothesis that it is a portrait of Ricciardi, noting that a 1687 inventory demonstrates Ricciardi's ownership of the image but not his role as subject; notes that as early as 1767 it was considered a self-portrait; demonstrates that the years around 1656 were troubled ones for Rosa and that Ricciardi consoled him with letters and poems, and hypothesizes that the painting was a visual response to this; believes the "Eremo" in the inscription refers not to a place but metaphorically to Rosa's loneliness and solitary existence in Rome.
Wendy Wassyng Roworth. "Salvator Rosa's Self-portraits: Some Problems of Identity and Meaning." The Seventeenth Century 4 (Autumn 1989), pp. 118, 120, 137–38, fig. 2, reiterates her hypothesis that this picture is a self-portrait made as a special gift for Ricciardi in 1657, noting that Rosa's likeness can be understood as a response and pictorial equivalent to an ode Ricciardi sent the artist in 1656; compares it to a work in the National Gallery, London, often considered a self-portrait, but probably an allegorical self-representation.
Michael R. T. Mahoney inWadsworth Atheneum Paintings. Ed. Jean K. Cadogan. Vol. 2, Italy and Spain: Fourteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. Hartford, 1991, p. 216.
Gabriele Finaldi. Letter to Andrea Bayer. October 17, 1994, states that a comparison of this painting with Rosa's portrait in the National Gallery, London "suggested very strongly that the sitters were the same person"; believes that Rosa's "'Self-portrait as Pascariello' [private collection, England] is undoubtedly the touchstone for Rosa's appearance in the early 1640s" and "confirms the identification of the Met's picture as a self-portrait".
Jonathan Scott. Salvator Rosa: His Life and Times. New Haven, 1995, pp. 68–70, ill. (color), tends toward an interpretation of the work as a portrait of Ricciardi and notes that it is "unlikely that Rosa would have portrayed himself writing Greek in a portrait given to a friend who knew that he could not understand a word of the language"; dates it about 1648, when both Rosa and Ricciardi were staying with the Maffei family; considers the pose of the sitter "almost identical" to that of Rosa's "Philosopher Contemplating a Skull" (Christ Church, Oxford), which originally belonged to the Maffei family.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 139, ill.
Sandro Bellesi. Cesare Dandini. Turin, 1996, p. 32, as "Portrait of Giovan Battista Ricciardi".
Wendy Wassyng Roworth. "Salvator Rosa: His Life and Times." Art History 20 (March 1997), p. 178.
Andreas Stolzenburg inSalvator Rosa, Genie der Zeichnung: Studien und Skizzen aus Leipzig und Haarlem. Ed. Herwig Guratzsch. Cologne, 1999, pp. 140–42, ill., as a self-portrait of 1656–57.
Keith Christiansen. "Going for Baroque: Bringing 17th-Century Masters to the Met." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Winter 2005), p. 9, fig. 5 (color).
Sybille Ebert-Schifferer inSalvator Rosa: tra mito e magia. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte. Naples, 2008, pp. 68, 80 n. 17, finds a precedent to the sitter's action of writing on a skull in a painting by Battistello Caracciolo of Saints Cosmas and Damian (about 1618–19; private collection, Padua).
Brigitte Daprà inSalvator Rosa: tra mito e magia. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte. Naples, 2008, pp. 63, 65 n. 33, pp. 104–5, no. 5, ill. (color), calls it a portrait of Ricciardi, based on the inscription and on the description in the Cinelli Calvoli manuscript [see Ref. 1705].
Marco Chiarini. "Salvator Rosa." Art e dossier no. 243 (April 2008), ill. p. 46 (color), dates it about 1656–57.
Keith Christiansen inPhilippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977–2008. New York, 2009, p. 36.
Franco Paliaga. Pittori, incisori e architetti pisani nel secolo di Galileo. Ghezzano, Italy, 2009, pp. 151–53, 172 nn. 92–93, 99, pp. 219, 230, ill. (color), publishes Giovanni Navarretti's record of August 28, 1648 [see Ref.], where he describes seeing a picture by Rosa of a philosopher contemplating a skull.
Helen Langdon inSalvator Rosa. Exh. cat., Dulwich Picture Gallery. London, 2010, pp. 29, 103–4, 109, 112, 114–17, no. 5, ill. (color, overall and detail), dates it about 1647.
Hugh Hudson. "An Unpublished Letter from Salvator Rosa." Burlington Magazine 153 (January 2011), p. 30, dates it "1642 or earlier".
Caterina Volpi in"Io vel'avviso perché so che n'haverete gusto": Salvator Rosa e Giovanni Battista Ricciardi attraverso documenti inediti. Rome, 2012, pp. 19–20 n. 33, pp. 52, 58, fig. 1, ill. on cover (color).
Franco Paliaga in"Io vel'avviso perché so che n'haverete gusto": Salvator Rosa e Giovanni Battista Ricciardi attraverso documenti inediti. Rome, 2012, pp. 38, 40, 48 n. 89.
Francesco Petrucci. Pier Francesco Mola (1612–1666): Materia e colore nella pittura del '600. Rome, 2012, p. 67.
Caterina Volpi. Salvator Rosa (1615–1673): "pittore famoso". Rome, 2014, pp. 170, 184–85, 191, 223, 230, 464–65, 527–29, 614, no. 140, fig. 148 (color), ill. p. 465, calls it "Ritratto di filosofo".
Michael Zellmann-Rohrer. "A Greek Inscription in a Portrait by Salvator Rosa." Metropolitan Museum Journal 49 (2014), pp. 187–92, figs. 1, 2 (color, overall and detail), suggests that the Greek inscription on the skull has been mistranslated as "Behold. Whither? When?" and that a more accurate translation would be along the lines of "Behold whither, eventually," referring to the inevitability of death.
Keith Christiansen. "La création tardive d'une collection de peintures baroques au Metropolitan Museum of Art / Creating a Baroque Collection at the Metropolitan Late in the Game." Aux origines d'un goût: la peinture baroque aux États-Unis / Creating the Taste for Baroque Painting in America. Paris, 2015, pp. 62, 69.
Edgar Peters Bowron. "Introduction: The Critical Fortunes of Italian Baroque Painting in America." Buying Baroque: Italian Seventeenth-Century Paintings Come to America. Ed. Edgar Peters Bowron. University Park, Pa., 2017, p. 5.
Andrea Bayer. "Better Late than Never: Collecting Baroque Painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Buying Baroque: Italian Seventeenth-Century Paintings Come to America. Ed. Edgar Peters Bowron. University Park, Pa., 2017, pp. 132, 152 n. 18, fig. 52 (color).
Alain Roy inDe Giotto à Goya: Peintures italiennes et espagnoles du musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg. Strasbourg, 2017, p. 205, under no. 109, calling it The Philosopher, finds that it has iconographic and stylistic affinities to a self-portrait in the Strasbourg museum.
Virginia Brilliant. Italian, Spanish, and French Paintings in the Ringling Museum of Art. New York, 2017, p. 270, under no. I.161.
Alexandra Hoare. Salvator Rosa, Friendship and the Free Artist in Seventeenth-Century Italy. London, , pp. 36, 91, 124, 167, 173, 175–227, 292, 369–85 nn. 1–275, figs. 121–24, 162 (color, overall and details), as "Poet-Philosopher"; defines the portrait as a "Freundschaftsbild" (friendship painting) that imagines the friend as a "second self"; argues that the painting was intended to both reciprocate and outshine Ricciardi, the recipient of the painting, and that it tells a complex story about Rosa's understanding of friendship.
Katharine Baetjer inEuropean Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. South Brisbane, 2021, pp. 116, 232, ill. pp. 117, 237 (color, overall and detail).
Chris Saines inEuropean Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Exh. cat., Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art. South Brisbane, 2021, p. 46, ill. (color detail).
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