Portrait of Pope Paul V Caravaggio Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The 1605 to 1606 Portrait of Pope V is a famous painting by artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, an Italian born in 1571 and did renowned artwork until his death in 1610.

The painting is currently preserved in Palazzo Borghese in Rome. The painting is inspired by Camillo Borghese who reigned from 1605 to 1621 as Pope Paul V.

Giovanni Bellori, Caravaggio's biographer estimates that the seated portrait of the pope was painted by the artist during the flight of Caravaggio following Ranuciio Tommassoni’s death in 1606 from Rome and 16 May 1605 when Borghese was elected.

Portrait of Pope Paul V used a medium of oil on canvas, a common painting technique at the time of painting, with a dimension of 203 cm by 119 cm. The portrait has since been preserved from 1650 in the Borghese collection where people and scholars can have the chance to look and study it.

Many scholars have had their doubts about the authenticity of the painting owing to the fact that it defers from the artist's past style of painting.

John Gash, a scholar in his 2013 revised a catalogue of Caravaggio believes the art work is authentic and that the artist had no much control of the Pope’s pose owing the fact that the Pope did not take any orders on how he would sit or behave in public.

The Pope's sitting style portrayed a dignified, sober, genuinely religious and cautious man, as pointed out by John Gash. There is a great similarity between the Portrait of Pope Paul V and Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X in the way the artists bring out the personality of a humble and composed religious leader by the use of colour and posture.

According to Bellori Caravaggio, he was introduced to the pope by his nephew, Cardinal Scipione Borghese. Scipione was a keen collector of art from renowned artists like Caravaggio, although he preferred to extort instead of encouraging art work through purchase and support.

The idea behind Scipione introducing Caravaggio was to make the artist come up with a painting of the Pope which he would later extort to add to his collection without paying for it. He would later become one of the most important contributors to Caravaggio’s work and inspired him to come up with other paintings of renowned people in the community.