Art on This Day
Guido Reni, an early Italian Baroque painter was born on this day, 4 November in 1575. His paintings noted for the classical idealism of his renderings of mythological and religious subjects. His religious compositions made him one of the most famous painters of his day in Europe, and a model for other Italian Baroque artists.
Born in Bologna into a family of musicians, Reni first apprenticed to the Flemish painter Denis Calvaert at the age of 10, and later influenced by the novel naturalism of the Carracci, a Bolognese family of painters. Upon gaining prominence, Reni surrounded himself with helpers—such as Giovanni Lanfranco, Francesco Albani, and Antonio Carracci. In his early career, Reni executed important commissions for Pope Paul V and Scipione Cardinal Borghese, painting numerous frescoes in chapels for these and other patrons. His religious and mythological paintings show his style tempering Baroque exuberance and complexity with classical restraint and his preference for gracefully posed figures mirroring antique ideals. In the later part of his career, Reni employed lighter tones, softer colours, and extremely free brushwork.
"St Michael Archangel" painted during Reni's years in Rome is famously known for the story about the model of the Satan in the painting. The painting depicted the moment that the Archangel Michael trampling Satan wears a late Roman military cloak and cuirass. While he was commissioned for the painting, Reni became aware that Cardinal Giovanni Battista Pamphilj, a member of a noble family in Rome, had slandered him. So, he, sensing an opportunity, decided to avenge himself by means of his own talent, at the same time pleasing his client, who was the member of the rival family of the Pamphilj . Therefore, the face that Archangel Michael crushes under his foot looks almost identical to that of Giovanni Battista Pamphilj. This turned out even more embarrassing a few years later, when in 1644 the cardinal was elected Pope Innocent X. When the painting was hung in the church, Pamphilj reputedly complained at such an outrage. However to have justified himself, Reni claimed that Satan had appeared to him in a vision, thus he knew well his face, and if Cardinal Pamphilj was so unlucky to resemble him, he could not be blamed for this. So Giovanni Battista Pamphilj had to endure the shame of appearing portrayed as Satan.
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