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Guido Reni, attr.

(1575 - 1642)
Guido Reni ( 4 November 1575 – 18 August 1642) was a widely-acclaimed painter and draughtsman in seventeenth-century Italy, renowned for his elegant interpretations of religious and mythological scenes. His style, which fused elements of classical idealism with close observation of the natural world, was perpetuated through the activity of an exceptionally large and productive studio and emulated by many artists across Europe.


His early work displays the distinctive traits of his structured academic training, a balance of classicism and more realistic representations and his figures, imbued with monumentality and grace, convey a strong sense of human emotion.

Born in Bologna into a family of musicians, Guido Reni was the only child of Daniele Reni and Ginevra Pozzi. Apprenticed at the age of nine to the Bolognese studio of Denis Calvaert, he was soon joined in that studio by Albani and Domenichino.

When Reni was about twenty years old, the three Calvaert pupils migrated to a rising rival studio led by Ludovico Carracci. They went on to form the nucleus of a prolific and successful school of Bolognese painters who followed Ludovico's cousin, Annibale Carracci, to Rome.

Reni completed commissions for his first altarpieces while in the Carracci academy. He left the academy by 1598, after an argument with Ludovico Carracci over unpaid work.

He moved to Rome in the early 1600s to work with the teams led by Annibale Carracci on the ceiling frescoes for the Casino dell’Aurora in the Palazzo Farnese and also undertook a number of important independent commissions, including an altarpiece for San Paolo alle Tre Fontane and decoration of Pope Paul V’s Annunciation Chapel in the Palazzo Quirinale.

Upon gaining prominence Reni surrounded himself with helpers—such as Giovanni Lanfranco and Antonio Carracci—who were fascinated by his noble if somewhat tyrannical personality.


After returning briefly to Bologna, he went back to Rome to become one of the premier painters during the papacy of Pope Paul V (Borghese); between 1607 and 1614 he became one of the painters most patronized by the Borghese family.

Returning once again to Bologna more or less permanently after 1614, Reni established a successful and prolific studio there, replacing the deceased Annibale Carracci as the figurehead of the Bolognese school.

By the 1630s Reni's painting style became looser, less impastoed, and dominated by lighter colours. A compulsive gambler, Reni was often in financial distress despite the steady demand for his paintings. According to his biographer, Carlo Cesare Malvasia, Reni's need to recoup gambling losses resulted in rushed execution and multiple copies of his works produced by his workshop.

Reni died in Bologna in 1642. He was buried there in the Rosary Chapel of the Basilica of San Domenico; the painter Elisabetta Sirani (whose father had been Reni's pupil and whom some considered the artistic reincarnation of Reni) was later interred in the same tomb.

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