Cardinal Mariano Rampolla 1900

Seated half-length, full-face, on a high backed chair upholstered in red damask, wearing over a scarlet cassock, a scarlet watered silk mozzetta (buttoned elbow length cape) over a white lace rochet, a scarlet zucchetto on his head, the black ribbon and insignia of the Grand Prior of Rome of the Order of Malta around his neck, his hands crossed on his lap and resting on his biretta, a large emerald ring on his right hand and his elbows resting on the carved wooden arms of the chair

Oil on canvas, 110.5 x 94.6 cm (43 ½ x 37 ¼ in.)


Sitters’ Book I, f. 37: M. Card. Rampolla del Tindaro [and beneath in the artist’s hand:] (Rom. 1900. / III.24)

Magyar Nemzeti Galéria (Hungarian National Gallery), Budapest

Cardinal Rampolla del Tindaro, the Papal Secretary of State, was instrumental in the arrangements for de László’s portrait of Pope Leo XIII [4509]. At the request of the Hungarian Minister of Religion and Education, Gyula Wlassics [110810], de László then painted the Cardinal himself.


Oakley Williams wrote of this painting: “The whole picture is conceived in the grand style. Seated erect in his chair of state, the Cardinal, clad in his splendid robes, confronts the spectator squarely and uncompromisingly. As a colour-harmony of rich reds and crimsons, emphasised by the black ribbon of the only decoration the Cardinal, as Grand Prior of Rome, always wore, it challenges the eye. The brilliant sheen of the watered silk of the cape, against the soft fold of the lace soutane [sic], is an admirable example of László’s mastery of technique. But inherent in the dignity of the setting as a whole as these accessories may be, they do not distract the attention from the face…The interest is from the first focused on the face in the high light, while the figure and setting are put back into the shadow. The impassive face, the firm-set mouth that seems to suppress a smile almost of arrogance, and the steady, watchful glance exercise a curious fascination. The characteristic droop of the right eyelid over the blind eye enhances the enigmatic, sphinx-like expression of the strong face.” [1]


De László had a great admiration for Velasquez, and although there is no record of his having seen Velázquez’s masterly and Machiavellian portrait of Pope Innocent X while he was in Rome (Galeria Doria Pamphilj), it is tempting to assume that he was influenced by it in his rendition of the face and attitude of the Cardinal. The composition, however, would appear to derive from Millais’s celebrated 1881 portrait of John Henry Newman (Arundel Castle), whom Leo XIII had made a Cardinal in 1879, and an engraving of whose portrait de László had possibly seen in the Vatican.


De László believed that it was important to observe character in his sitters’ hands, and this detail of the Cardinal’s portrait was chosen for discussion by A. L. Baldry in the book Painting a Portrait.[2] He writes: “The Cardinal was physically a man of large frame, but mentally he was exceedingly subtle, and he had hands that belonged to his mind rather than his body. De László, recognizing this, dwelt specially on them, and his arrangement of the portrait gave them particular prominence. When he came to the painting of them he asked the sitter to put them in the position in which they appear in the picture and to keep them without moving as long as possible; the Cardinal remained absolutely still for an hour and in that time they were finished.” De László considered them the best hands he had ever painted.


The portrait of the Cardinal received much praise, winning the Gold Medal awarded by Austrian Government at the Künstlerhaus Exhibition in Vienna in 1902 and the special gold medal at Düsseldorf the following year.

Mariano Rampolla was born in Sicily on 17 August 1843, the son of Ignazio Rampolla, Count di Tindaro and of his wife Orsola Errante. He was ordained priest in 1866 and studied diplomacy and law at the Pontifical College for Ecclesiastical Nobles in Rome where he also showed a talent for oriental languages. In 1875 he was sent to Madrid as Auditor of the Papal Nunciature. Two years later he returned to Rome and was named Secretary for Oriental Rites of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. In 1880 he became Secretary of the Propaganda itself. From 1882, having been appointed Titular Archbishop of Heraclea, he served as Papal Nuncio in Madrid until in March 1887 he was appointed Cardinal. He became Cardinal Secretary of State to Pope Leo XIII three months later. In 1896 he was elected Grand Prior of the Sacred and Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem (the Order of Malta), the insignia of which he is wearing in the present portrait.

A controversial and powerful figure in the Vatican, Rampolla strove to enact Leo XIII’s moderate policies by reconciling the Papacy with the European Powers, especially Spain and the Kingdom of Italy, whose relationship with the Vatican had been severely strained through the uncompromising conservatism of the previous Pope Pius IX. Nevertheless, despite the traditional good relations between the Vatican and Austria-Hungary, he incurred the displeasure of the Emperor Franz Joseph through his pro-French position in attempting to reconcile French Catholics with their republican government and particularly by encouraging an alliance of France and Russia, which was interpreted as proving his support for the nationalist ambitions of the Slavs in the Austrian Empire. Furthermore, he stated his opposition to allowing a Catholic burial to the Austrian Crown Prince Rudolf, who committed suicide in 1889, and, at the very time the present portrait was being painted, sanctioned the morganatic marriage of the then Heir Apparent Franz Ferdinand to a Bohemian countess.[3] On the death of Leo XIII in 1903, Rampolla’s hopes of succeeding him were crushed by an Austrian veto, the Jus Exclusivæ.

In failing health, Rampolla thereafter gave up his more burdensome positions in the Vatican and spent his remaining years withdrawn from public life in Rome. He became President of the Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas in 1910, published a few biographical and archaeological works and in the last year of his life was Cardinal Archivist of the Vatican Library. He died aged seventy on 16 December 1913.


Presented by the artist to the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest, 1929


•Paris Salon, International Exhibition, 1900, no. 61

•Hungarian Fine Art Society, Budapest, Winter Exhibition, 1900-1901, no. 311

•Wiesbadener Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Portrait Exhibition, 1900 or later

•Venice, Biennale d'arte di Venezia, April 1901, no. 15

•Künstlerhaus, Vienna, Annual Exhibition, 1902, no. 437

•Kunstsalon der Königlichen Hof-Kunsthandlung Emil Richter, Dresden, 1902

•Société Royale des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Exposition de la Société Générale, 1903

•Düsseldorf, International Exhibition, 1903, to be confirmed

Glaspalast, Munich, Jahresausstellung, 1903, no. 66

•Glaspalast, Munich, Annual International Exhibition, no. 663

•Rome. Exposizione della Società degli Amatori, 1904, no. 1066A

The 4th International Society's Exhibition, the Stereoscopic Company, London, 1904

•The Fine Art Society, London, Portrait Paintings and Drawings by Philip A. László,

May and June, 1907, no. 35.  

•Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1908, to be confirmed

•The Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts, Dublin, Ireland, Annual Exhibition, 1909, no. 105

•Rome, Esposizione Internazionale di Belle Arti (Hungarian Section), 1911, no. 121

•Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Autumn Exhibition, 1912, no. 207

•The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, Paintings by Philip A. de László, February-March 1921, no. 27

•M. Knoedler & Co., New York, Paintings by Philip A. de László, April 1921, no. 7

•Venice, XIX Biennale d'arte di Venecia, 1934, no. 484

•Christie’s, King Street, London, A Brush with Grandeur. 6-22 January 2004, no. 19

Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest, Munich in Hungarian, Hungarian Artists in Munich 1850-1914, 1 October 2009 – 10 January 2010, no. 182

•Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest, Philip de László “I am an artist of the world…”, 2019, no. 4


Új Idők, “Fülöp László in the Vatican”, Yr. 7 no. 9, 24 February 1901

Vasárnapi Ujság, vol. 48, issue 28, Budapest: Franklin-Társulat, 14 July 1901, p. 445

ill. & p. 450

Cosmos Catholicus: Grande revue catholique illustrée, Rome, 1st fortnight of

January 1901 p. 24, ill.

•DLA 1904 parcel, Art Journal, March 1904, p. 101, ill.

•Montesquiou-Fezansac, Robert (de), L’Art et Les Artistes, Un Portraitiste Lyrique,

Philipp Laszlo,  1906, II, 15, June p. 94

L’Art et les artistes, revue d’art des deux mondes, issue 15, June 1906, p. 94, ill.

Vasárnapi Újság, Budapest, Issue 15, 14 April 1907, p. 295

•Schleinitz, Otto (von), Künstler Monographien, no. 106, Ph A. von László, Bielefeld

and Leipzig (Velhagen & Klasing), 1913, p. 42, pl. 46

The Graphic, 27 December 1913, p. 1213, ill.

•Williams, Oakley, ed., Selections from the Work of P.A. de László, Hutchinson,

London, 1921, pp. 29-32 and ill. facing p. 28

The Graphic, 24 January 1925, p. 122

1850-1930: A Nyolcvanéves Pesti Napló. Budapest: Az Athenaeum R.-T, p. 43, ill.

•Holmes, C.G., ed., Painting a Portrait, in How to do it Series no. 6, introduction by A.L. Baldry, The Studio, 1934, p. 54, ill. (detail of hands only), p. 55, pl. XXII

•Rutter, Owen. Portrait of a Painter, London, 1939, pp.190-96, 198-204, 233

•De Laszlo, Sandra, ed., & Christopher Wentworth-Stanley, asst. ed., A Brush with Grandeur, Paul Holberton publishing, London 2004, p. 82, ill. p. 83        

Munich in Hungarian, Hungarian Artists in Munich 1850-1914, Budapest, 2009, p.213 ill.

•Hart-Davis, Duff, in collaboration with Caroline Corbeau-Parsons, De László: His Life and Art, Yale University Press, 2010, p. 65-66, 67, 95, 180, 243, ill. 35

•DLA043-0094, letter from Elek Petrovics, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, to de László, 12 June 1929

•Laszlo, Lucy de, diary 1902-1911, 14 March 1902 entry, p. 24

•László, Philip de, 1934 diary, private collection, 17 April entry, p. 4; 10 May entry, p. 21

CWS 2008

[1] Williams, op. cit., pp. 29-30

[2] Holmes, op. cit., p 54, ill. p.55

[3] Rutter, op.cit., p. 199