Guido Reni: Wikis


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Guido Reni
Self portrait, c. 1602.
Born November 4, 1575(1575-11-04)
Died August 18, 1642 (aged 66)
Nationality Italian
Field Painting
Movement Baroque

Guido Reni (4 November 1575 – 18 August 1642) was an Italian painter of high-Baroque style.



Born in Bologna into a family of musicians, Guido Reni was the son of Daniele Reni and Ginevra de’ Pozzi. As a child of nine, he was apprenticed under the Bolognese studio of Denis Calvaert. Soon after, he was joined in that studio by Albani and Domenichino. He may also have trained with a painter by the name of Ferrantini. When Reni was about twenty years old, the three Calvaert pupils migrated to the rising rival studio, named Accademia degli Incamminati (Academy of the "newly embarked", or progressives), led by Lodovico Carracci. They went on to form the nucleus of a prolific and successful school of Bolognese painters who followed Annibale Carracci to Rome. Like many other Bolognese painters, Reni's painting was thematic and eclectic in style.


Work in Rome

By late 1601, Reni and Albani had moved to Rome[1] to work with the teams led by Annibale Carracci in fresco decoration of the Farnese Palace. During 1601-1604, his main patron was Cardinal Sfondrati. By 1604-1605, he received an independent commission for an altarpiece of the Crucifixion of St. Peter. After a few year sojourn in Bologna, he returned to Rome to become one of the premier painters during the papacy of Paul V (Borghese). From 1607-1614, he was one of the painters patronized by the Borghese family.

Abduction of Deianira, 1620-1621.

Reni's frescoed ceiling of the large central hall of garden palace, Casino dell'Aurora located in the grounds of the Palazzo Pallavicini-Rospigliosi, is considered his masterpiece. The casino was originally a pavilion commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese[2]; the rear portion overlooks the Piazza Montecavallo and Palazzo del Quirinale[3]. The massive fresco is framed in quadri riportati and depicts Apollo in his Chariot preceded by Dawn (Aurora) bringing light to the world[4]. The work is restrained in classicism, copying poses from Roman sarcophagi, and showing far more simplicity and restraint than Carracci's riotous Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne[5] in the Farnese. Reni in this painting allies himself more with the sterner Cavaliere d'Arpino, Lanfranco, and Albani "School" of mytho-historic painting, and less with the more crowded frescoes characteristic of Pietro da Cortona. There is little concession to perspective, and the vibrantly colored style is antithetical to the tenebrism of Caravaggio's followers. Payments showed that he was paid in 247 scudi and 54 baiocchi upon completion on 24 September 1616.

He also frescoed in Paoline Chapel of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome as well as the Aldobrandini wings of the Vatican. According to rumor, the pontifical chapel of Montecavallo (Chapel of the Annuciation) was assigned to Reni to paint. However, because he felt underpaid by the ministers, the artist left for Bologna, leaving the role of the preeminent artist in Rome to Domenichino.

Work in Naples and return to Bologna

In later years, Reni traveled to Naples to complete a commission to paint a ceiling in a chapel of the San Gennaro. However, in Naples, the other local prominent painters, including Corenzio, Caracciolo and Ribera, were vehemently resistant to competitors, and according to rumor, conspired to poison or otherwise harm Reni (as may have befallen Domenichino in Naples after him). He passed briefly by Rome, but left that city abruptly, during the pontificate of Urban VIII, after being reprimanded by Cardinal Spinola.

St Dominic's Glory crowning the Arca di San Domenico.

Returning to Bologna, more or less permanently, Reni established a successful and prolific studio. He was commissioned to decorate the cupola of the chapel of Saint Dominic in the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna, between 1613 and 1615, resulting in the radiant fresco St Dominic's Glory, a masterpiece that can stand the comparison with the exquisite Arca di San Domenico below. He also contributed to the decoration of the Rosary Chapel in the same church with the Resurrection.

In Ravenna, he painted the chapel in the cathedral with his admired picture of the Israelites gathering Manna. Reni, after departing Rome, alternately painted in a variety of styles, true to the eclectic tastes of many of Carracci trainees. For example, his altarpiece for Samson Victorious formulates stylized poses characteristic of Mannerism[6]. In contrast his Crucifixion and his Atlanta and Hipomenes[1] depict dramatic diagonal movement coupled with the effects of light and shade that betray the influence of Caravaggio. His turbulent and violent Massacre of the Innocents (Pinacoteca, Bologna) is painted in a manner reminiscent of Raphael. In 1625 Prince Władysław Sigismund Vasa of Poland visited the artist workshop in Bologna during his voyage to Western Europe.[7] The close rapport between the painter and the Polish Prince resulted in the acquisitions of drawings and paintings.[7] In 1630, he painted the Pallion del Voto with images of St. Ignatius and Francis Xavier, painted during the plague of 1630 that attacked Bologna.

The Archangel Michael, painted for the Capucins' Church in Rome.
Penitent Magdalene, ca. 1635, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Reni's sensuous, sentimental images are among his most popular works.
Stone slab over the tomb of Guido Reni.

His most distinguished pupil was Simone Cantarini, named "Il Pesarese"; he painted a portrait of his master, now in the Bolognese Gallery. Other trainees were Domenico Maria Canuti and Giovanni Battista Michelini. The Uffizi Gallery holds a self-portrait. Other pupils were Giacomo Semenza, Francesco Gessi, and Marco Bandinelli. His themes are mostly biblical and mythological in subject. He painted few portraits; those of Sixtus V, Bernardino Cardinal Spada, and the so‑called Beatrice Cenci are among the most noticeable. The identity of the Cenci portrait is very doubtful, since Beatrice Cenci was executed in Rome before Reni ever lived there and so could not have sat for the portrait. Many etchings are attributed to Guido Reni, some after his own paintings and some after other masters. They are spirited, in a light style of delicate lines and dots. Reni's technique was used by the Bolognese school and was the standard for Italian printmakers of his time.[8]

Reni died in Bologna in 1642.

He is buried with Elisabetta Sirani in the Rosary Chapel of the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna.

Partial anthology of works

The Louvre contains twenty of his pictures, the National Gallery of London seven, and others once there have now been removed to other public collections. The most interesting of the seven is the small Coronation of the Virgin, painted on copper. It was probably painted before the master left Bologna for Rome.



  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Cavalli, Gian Carlo (ed.)Guido Reni exh. cat. Bologna 1954
  • Pepper, Stephen, Guido Reni, Oxford 1984
  • Guido Reni 1575-1642 (exhibition catalogue Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna; Los Angeles County Museum of art; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth) Bologna 1988
  • Spear, Richard, The 'Divine' Guido: Religion, Sex, Money, and Art in the World of Guido Reni, New Haven and London, 1997
  • Hansen, Morten Steen and Joaneath Spicer, eds., Masterpieces of Italian Painting, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore and London, 2005
  • "Printmaking". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 29 March 2007 <>


  1. ^ Guido Reni: A Review Reviewed,Stephen D. Pepper; Richard E. Spear. The Burlington Magazine (1990)132(10): p219-223.
  2. ^ Casino dell'Aurora Pallavicini. Conference center - Rome, Italy
  3. ^ Google Maps
  4. ^ Aurora by RENI, Guido
  5. ^ Image Files-Frescos
  6. ^ The victorious Samson (Wikicommons)
  7. ^ a b (Polish) "Kunstkammer of Władysław Vasa". kunstkammer_painting.html. Retrieved 2008-08-27.  
  8. ^ printmaking :: Italy - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  9. ^ (English) "The Rape of Europa". Retrieved 2008-08-27.  

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GUIDO RENI (1575-1642), a prime master in the Bolognese school of painting, and one of the most admired artists of the period of incipient decadence in Italy, was born at Calvenzano near Bologna on the 4th of November 1575. His father was a musician of repute, a player on the flageolet; he wished to bring the lad up to perform on the harpsichord. At a very childish age, however, Guido displayed a determined bent towards the art of form, scribbling some attempt at a drawing here, there and everywhere. He was only nine years of age when Denis Calvart took notice of him, received him into his academy of design by the father's permission, and rapidly brought him forward, so that by the age of thirteen Giiido had already attained marked proficiency. Albani and Domenichino became soon afterwards pupils in the same academy. With Albani: Guido was very intimate up to the earlier period of manhood, but they afterwards became rivals, both as painters and as heads of ateliers, with a good deal of asperity on Albani's part; Domenichino was also pitted against Reni by the policy of Annibale Caracci. Guido was still in the academy of Calvart when he began frequenting the opposition school kept by Lodovico Caracci, whose style, far in advance of that of the Flemish painter, he dallied with. This exasperated Calvart. Him Guido, not yet twenty years of age, cheerfully quitted, transferring himself openly to the Caracci academy, in which he soon became prominent, being equally skilful and ambitious. He had not been a year with the Caracci when a work of his excited the wonder of Agostino and the jealousy of Annibale. Lodovico cherished him, and frequently painted him as an angel, for the youthful Reni was extremely handsome. After a while, however, Lodovico also felt himself nettled, and he patronized the competing talents of Giovanni Barbiere. On one occasion Guido had made a copy of Annibale's " Descent from the Cross"; Annibale was asked to retouch it, and, finding nothing to do, exclaimed pettishly, " He knows more than enough " (" Costui ne sa troppo "). On another occasion Lodovico, consulted as umpire, lowered a price which Reni asked for an early picture. This slight determined the young man to be a pupil no more. He left the Caracci, and started on his own account as a competitor in the race for patronage and fame. A renowned work, the story of " Callisto and Diana," had been completed before he left.

Guido was faithful to the eclectic principle of the Bolognese school of painting. He had appropriated something from Calvart, much more from Lodovico Caracci; he studied with much zest after Albert Diirer; he adopted the massive, sombre and partly uncouth manner of Caravaggio. One day Annibale Caracci made the remark that a style might be formed reversing that of Caravaggio in such matters as the ponderous shadows and the gross common forms; this observation germinated in Guido's mind, and he endeavoured after some such style, aiming constantly at suavity. Towards 1602 he went to Rome with Albani, and Rome remained his headquarters for twenty years..

Here, in the pontificate of Paul V. (Borghese), he was greatly noted and distinguished. In the garden-house of the Rospigliosi Palace he painted the vast fresco which is justly regarded as his masterpiece - " Phoebus and the Hours preceded by Aurora." This exhibits his second manner, in which he had deviated far indeed from the promptings of Caravaggio. He founded now chiefly upon the antique, more especially the Niobe group and the " Venus de' Medici," modified by suggestions from Raphael, Correggio, Parmigiano and Paul Veronese. Of this last painter, although on the whole he did not get much from him, Guido was a particular admirer; he used to say that he would rather have been Paul Veronese than any other master - Paul was more nature than art. The " Aurora " is beyond doubt a work of pre-eminent beauty and attainment; it is stamped with pleasurable dignity, and, without being effeminate, has a more uniform aim after graceful selectness than can readily be traced in previous painters, greatly superior though some of them had been in impulse and personal fervour of genius. The pontifical chapel of Montecavallo was assigned to Reni to paint; but, being straitened in payments by the ministers, the artist made off to Bologna. He was fetched back by Paul V. with ceremonious éclat, and lodging, living and equipage were supplied to him. At another time he migrated from Rome to Naples, having received a commission to paint the chapel of S. Gennaro. The notorious cabal of three painters resident in NaplesCorenzio, Caracciolo and Ribera - offered, however, as stiff an opposition to Guido as to some other interlopers who preceded and succeeded him. They gave his servant a beating by the hands of two unknown bullies, and sent by him a message to his master to depart or prepare for death; Guido waited for no second warning, and departed. He now returned to Rome; but he finally left that city abruptly, in the pontificate of Urban VIII., in consequence of an offensive reprimand administered to him by Cardinal Spinola. He had received an advance of 400 scudi on account of an altarpiece for St Peter's, but after some lapse of years had made no beginning with the work. A broad reminder from the cardinal put Reni on his mettle; he returned the 400 scudi, quitted Rome within a few days, and steadily resisted all attempts at recall. He now resettled in Bologna. He had taught as well as painted in Rome, and he left pupils behind him; but on the whole he did not stamp any great mark upon the Roman school of painting, apart from his own numerous works in the papal city.

In Bologna Guido lived in great splendour, and established a celebrated school, numbering more than two hundred scholars. He himself drew in it, even down to his latest years. On first returning to this city, he charged about X21 for a full-length figure (mere portraits are not here in question), half this sum for a half-length, and £5 for a head. These prices must be regarded as handsome, when we consider that Domenichino about the same time received only £io, ios. for his very large and celebrated picture, the " Last Communion of St Jerome." But Guido's reputation was still on the increase, and in process of time he quintupled his prices. He now left Bologna hardly at all; in one instance, however, he went off to Ravenna, and, along with three pupils, he painted the chapel in the cathedral with his admired picture of the " Israelites gathering Manna." His shining prosperity was not to last till the end. Guido was dissipated, generously but indiscriminately profuse, and an inveterate gambler. The gambling propensity had been his from youth, but until he became elderly it did not noticeably damage his fortunes. It grew upon him, and in a couple of evenings he lost the enormous sum of 14,400 scudi. The vice told still more ruinously on his art than on his character. In his decline he sold his time at so much per hour to certain picture dealers; one of them, the Shylock of his craft, would stand by, watch in hand, and see him work. Half-heartedness, half-performance, blighted his product: self-repetition and mere mannerism, with affectation for sentiment and vapidity for beauty, became the art of Guido. Some of these trade-works, heads or half-figures, were turned out in three hours or even less. It is said that, tardily wise, Reni left off gambling for nearly two years; at last he relapsed, and his relapse was followed not long afterwards by his death, caused by malignant fever. This event took place in Bologna on the 18th of August 1642; he died in debt, but was buried with great pomp in the church of S. Domenico.

Guido was personally modest, although he valued himself on his position in the art, and would tolerate no slight in that relation; he was extremely upright, temperate in diet, nice in his person and his dress. He was fond of stately houses, but could feel also the charm of solitude. In his temper there was a large amount of suspiciousness; and the jealousy which his abilities and his successes excited, now from the Caracci, now from Albani, now from the monopolizing league of Neapolitan painters, may naturally have kept this feeling in active exercise. Of his numerous scholars, Simone Cantarini, named 11 Pesarese, counts as the most distinguished; he painted an admirable head of Reni, now in the Bolognese Gallery. The portrait in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence is from Reni's own hand. Two other good scholars were Giacomo Semenza and Francesco Gessi.

The character of Guido's art is so well known as hardly to call for detailed analysis, beyond what we have already intimated. His most characteristic style exhibits a prepense ideal, of form rather than character, with a slight mode of handling, and silvery, somewhat cold, colour. In working from the nude he aimed at perfection of form, especially marked in the hands and feet. But he was far from always going to choice nature for his model; he transmuted ad libitum, and painted, it is averred, a Magdalene of demonstrative charms from a vulgar-looking colour-grinder. His best works have beauty, great amenity, artistic feeling and high accomplishment of manner, all alloyed by a certain core of commonplace; in the worst pictures the commonplace swamps everything, and Guido has flooded European galleries with trashy and empty pretentiousness, all the more noxious in that its apparent grace of sentiment and form misleads the unwary into approval, and the dilettante dabbler into cheap raptures. Both in Rome and wherever else he worked he introduced increased softness of style, which was then designated aš the modern method. His pictures are mostly Scriptural or mythologic in subject, and between two and three hundred of them are to be found in various European collections - more than a hundred of these containing life-sized figures.. The portraits which he executed are few - those of Sixtus V., Cardinal Spada and the so-called Beatrice Cenci being among the most noticeable. The identity of the last-named portrait is very dubious; it certainly cannot have been painted direct from Beatrice, who had been executed in Rome before Guido ever resided there.. Many etchings are attributed to him - some from his own works, and some after other masters; they are spirited, but rather negligent.

Of other works not already noticed, the following should be named: - in Rome (the Vatican), the " Crucifixion of St Peter," an example of the painter's earlier manner; in S. Lorenzo in Lucina, " Christ Crucified "; in Forll, the " Conception "; in Bologna, the " Alms of St Roch " (early), the " Massacre of the Innocents," and the " Pieta, or Lament over the Body of Christ " (in the church of the Mendicanti), which is by many regarded as Guido's prime executive work; in the Dresden Gallery, an " Ecce Homo "; in Milan (Brera Gallery), "Saints Peter and Paul"; in Genoa (church of S. Ambrogio), the " Assumption of the Virgin "; in Berlin, " St Paul the Hermit and St Anthony in the Wilderness." The celebrated picture of " Fortune (in the Capitol) is one of Reni's finest treatments of female form; as a specimen of male form, the " Samson Drinking from the Jawbone of an Ass " might be named beside it. One of his latest works of mark is the " Ariadne," which used to be in the Gallery of the Capitol. The Louvre contains twenty of his pictures, the National Gallery of London seven, and others were once there, now removed to other public collections. The most interesting of the seven is the small " Coronation of the Virgin," painted on copper, an elegantly finished work, more pretty than beautiful. It was probably painted before the master quitted Bologna for Rome.

For the life and works of Guido Reni, see Bolognini, Vita di Guido Reni (1839); Passeri, Vite de' pittori; and Malvasia, Felsina Pittrice; also Lanzi, Storia pittorica. (W. M. R.)

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