Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Cardinal Alessandrino (1541–1598) participated in the conclave of 1585, which elected Pope Sixtus V. The pope then gave Alessandrino enormous authority by naming him his vicar general in Rome and of the entire Church. Despite his high rank, Alessandrino continued to wear his white and black Dominican habit. The cardinal is portrayed in a straightforward fashion, sitting on a chair and making eye contact with the viewer. His sober vestments contrast with the rich fittings of the plush velvet chair and the elegant satin curtain to his right. This cloth, theatrically pulled back and casting a dark shadow, humorously reveals that this is a painted image: a picture within a picture. Canvases were often covered with protective cloths. Pulzone has put the beholder in the position of being present when the portrait is revealed for the first time.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Scipione Pulzone, called Il Gaetano, Italian (Gaëta, Italy 1544 - 1598 Rome, Italy)
Michele Bonelli, called "Cardinal Alessandrino"
Other Titles
Title: Michele Cardinal Bonelli (1541-1598), called "Cardinal Alessandrino"
Work Type
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Lazio
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2540, European Art, 13th–16th century, The Renaissance
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
136.5 x 105.2 cm (53 3/4 x 41 7/16 in.)
framed: 156.5 x 125 x 11 cm (61 5/8 x 49 3/16 x 4 5/16 in.)
Possibly in Barberini Collection (Rome). Sciarra Collection (Rome, until 1880s?). C. Fairfax Murray (London, until 1905), sold; to Edward Edward Waldo Forbes, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1905.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Edward W. Forbes
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Highlights from the Collections of the Fogg Museum and Harvard Alumni of St. Louis, exh. cat., City Art Museum of St. Louis (St. Louis, 1964), cat. 61

Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, 1967)

Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, NY, 1967), cat. 53

Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 171

Sydney J. Freedberg, "Lorenzo Lotto to Nicolas Poussin", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 389-397, p. 393, repr. p. 393 as fig. 9

Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 179, p. 157, repr.

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), pp. 125, 340, repr. b/w cat. no. 707

Robert B. Simon, From Sacred to Sensual: Italian Paintings, 1400-1750, exh. cat., Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc. (New York, NY, January 1998), p. 58

Alexandra Dern, Scipione Pulzone (ca. 1546-1598), Verlag Und Datenbank Für Geisteswissenschaften (Weimar, Germany, 2003), no. 44, pp. 149-150, repr. as abb. 58; pp. 28-29, 62, 103

Andrea Del Col and Anne Jacobson Schutte, ed., L'Inquisizione romana, i giudici e gli eretici, Viella (Rome, 2017), repr. as cover image

Yuri Primarosa, Ottavio Leoni (1578-1630): Eccelente miniator di ritratti. Catalogo ragionato dei disegni e dei dipinti, Ugo Bozzi Editore (Rome, 2017), pp. 67, 675, repr. p. 66 as fig. 39

Exhibition History

Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings from the Fogg Art Museum, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 05/08/1967 - 06/11/1967

Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, 10/12/1967 - 12/03/1967

The Portrait, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/15/2004 - 01/09/2005

32Q: 2540 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

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