Lot 72
  • 72

Guido Reni

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • The Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia
  • oil on copper


Possibly owned by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi (1595-1632) and listed in inventories of 1623 and 1633;
Acquired in Rome by the Abbé Jean d'Estrées (1666-1718), Archbishop of Cambrai from 1716, by whom sold to Philippe II, duc d'Orléans (1674-1723), and listed in his 1724 posthumous inventory (according to Stryienski, under Literature);
Thence by descent to his son Louis, duc d'Orléans (1703-1752), and listed in his 1752 posthumous inventory (according to Stryienski, op. cit.);
Thence by descent to his grandson Louis Philippe II Joseph d'Orléans, duc de Chartres, called 'Philippe Égalité' (1747-1793), to whom Couché dedicated his volume in 1786 (under Literature);
Orléans sale, London, Mr. Bryan's Gallery, 26 December 1798, lot 36 (as 'Guido - St. Apollonia Martyr'), for 350 guineas to Troward;
Walsh Porter;
His deceased sale, London, Christie's, 14 April 1810, lot 14, for 346 guineas to Parson;
George Watson-Taylor, M.P. (1771-1841), of Erlestoke Park, near Devizes, Wiltshire;
His sale ('The Collection of his Town Mansion, Cavendish Square'), London, Christie's, 14 June 1823, lot 54 (as 'Guido - The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia, on copper. An exquisite cabinet jewel, formerly in the Orleans collection. In the printed account of the contents of that famous Gallery, it is noticed, that this Picture was first brought from Rome, by the Cardinal d'Estrées, from whence it passed into the possession of the Regent), for 420 guineas to 'Count Woronzow', probably Count Semen (or Semyon) Romanovich Worontsow (1744-1832);
Countess Woronzow, Villa Woronzow;
Her sale, Florence, Villa Woronzow, 28 April 1900, lot 15, to N. Stolypin;
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 10 December 1986, lot 26, where acquired by the present owner and hung in his home until now.


British Institution, 1818, no. 40 (lent by George Watson-Taylor);
Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale; Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, Guido Reni 1575-1642, Bologna, 5 September - 5 November 1988;  Los Angeles, 11 December 1988 - 12 February 1989; Fort Worth, 11 March - 14 May 1989, no. 27;
Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum; Kansas City, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; The Hague, Mauritshuis, Copper as Canvas. Two Centuries of Masterpiece Paintings on Copper 1575-1775, Phoenix, 19 December 1998 - 28 February 1999; Kansas City, 28 March - 14 June 1999; The Hague, 26 June - 22 August 1999, no. 47.


Dubois de Saint-Gelais, Description des tableaux du Palais-Royal, second ed., 1737, no. 191;
A.J. d'Argenville, Abrégé de la vie des plus fameux peintres, vol. II, 1762, p. 108;
J. Couché, La Galerie du Palais-Royal gravée d'après les tableaux des différentes écoles qui la composent, vol. I, Paris 1786, engraved by B.-A. Nicolet;
W. Buchanan, Memoirs of Painting..., vol. I, 1824, p. 94;
G. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, vol. II, London 1854, Appendix B, p. 495, no. 9;
A. Graves, A Century of Loan Exhibitions 1813-1912, London 1913, vol. I, p. 458;
C. Stryienski, La Galerie du Régent Philippe, Duc d' Orléans, Paris 1913, p. 170, no. 253;
O. Kurz, "Guido Reni", in Jahrbuch des Kunsthistorischensammlungen in Wien, vol. II, 1937, p. 247;
Possibly K. Garas, "The Ludovisi Collection of Pictures in 1633 - II", in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CIX, no. 771, June 1967, p. 347, no. 224;
E. Baccheschi, L'opera completa di Guido Reni, Milan 1971, p. 88, cat. no. 26c;
D.S. Pepper, Guido Reni, Oxford 1984, pp. 217-18, cat. no. 20, the engraving by Nicolet reproduced as plate 21;
D.S. Pepper, Guido Reni. L'opera completa, Novara 1988, p. 330, cat. no. 16, reproduced in colour plate VI;
D.S. Pepper, in Guido Reni 1575-1642, exhibition catalogue, Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale, 5 September - 5 November 1988;  Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 11 December 1988 - 12 February 1989; Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, 11 March - 14 May 1989, p. 226, cat. no. 27, reproduced in colour;
R. Spear, "Re-viewing the 'Divine' Guido", in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXI, no. 1034, May 1989, p. 370;
D.S. Pepper, "Guido Reni: a Review Reviewed" (with a reply by Richard E. Spear), in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXII, no. 1044, March 1990, p. 221;
R. Spear, The "Divine" Guido. Religion, sex, money and art in the world of Guido Reni, New Haven & London 1997, pp. 373-74, footnote 77;
E. Peters Bowron, in Copper as Canvas. Two Centuries of Masterpiece Paintings on Copper 1575-1775, exhibition catalogue, Phoenix, Phoenix Art Museum, 19 December 1998 - 28 February 1999; Kansas, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 28 March - 14 June 1999; The Hague, Mauritshuis, 26 June - 22 August 1999, pp. 262-63, cat. no. 47, reproduced in colour p. 265;
A. Henning, "The New Technique of Painting on Copper", in A. Henning & S. Schaefer eds., Captured Emotions; Baroque Painting in Bologna 1575-1725, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, December 2008, p. 26, reproduced on p. 27 (forthcoming publication).

By Bénédict Alphonse (or Bernard Antoine) Nicolet (1743-1806), 1786 (for La Galerie du Palais-Royal).

Catalogue Note

This refined painting on copper by Guido Reni – one of the most influential painters of the 17th century in Italy – constitutes an elegant reworking by the artist of an earlier theme. It once formed part of the illustrious collection of the Duc d'Orléans and, like other small-scale paintings on copper, it was probably commissioned by a sophisticated Roman patron. Reni became one of the most successful practitioners of the technique of painting on copper, using the support from the early 1590s right up until his death in 1642. The copper's smooth surface and intimate scale allowed the artist to achieve a porcelain-like finish to his paintings; something that was particuarly appreciated by 19th-century collectors in England and which his contemporaries no doubt also admired. Reni's biographer Carlo Cesare Malvasia described the coppers as 'rametti da letto graziosissimi' indicating their intimate function in the bedroom and their use for private devotion. This painting shows the Martyrdom of Saint Apollonia but Reni spares us the gore that such a scene of martyrdom inevitably entails and focuses instead on the youthful beauty and vulnerability of his subject.

The copper has been dated to circa 1614,1 post-dating the earlier variant by about seven years, and although there has been much discussion as to the autograph status of one or other of the two versions, the evident quality and refinement of the present painting confirms that it is certainly by Reni himself.2  The earlier version was in the Barberini collection in Rome from at least 1671 to not long before 1973, and although it was seen by Pepper in 1966 and published by him in 1984 as a copy (an opinion he revised in the 1988 edition of his monograph), it is now universally believed to be an autograph Reni of 1606-7.3  The composition clearly enjoyed enormous popularity for other period copies exist: one, on canvas, was described in the 1738 Barberini archive; another, on copper, was in Dresden, Gemäldegalerie, by 1751 (year in which it appears in the King of Poland's inventory); a third, on copper, is in the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes, Málaga (deposit, Prado, no. 214); and Pepper lists two more, also on copper, on the London art market in the 1980s.

A date of circa 1614 for the present work seems plausible also on stylistic grounds for it seems to bridge his Roman and Bolognese periods of activity. 1614 was the year in which Reni completed the famous Aurora fresco in the garden pavilion of the Borghese's Quirinal villa (now the Palazzo Rospigliosi-Pallavicini). The colourful palette and solid, three-dimensional modelling of the figures find parallels in his Bacchus and Ariadne in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which has been dated to slightly later to circa 1619-21.4  Although more than double the size of the present copper, both scenes are concentrated around two principal figures and the bold use of colours and chiaroscuro serve to emphasise the two participants in the foreground. Apollonia's physiognomy looks forward to that of Ariadne and the contrapposto pose of Bacchus' legs is reminiscent of the executioner's.

A note on the Provenance:
In 1988 Pepper argued for the present painting to be identifiable with that listed in the 1623 inventory of Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, the founder and owner of one of the finest collections in Rome and nephew to Pope Gregory XV, as: "Un quadretto d'una santa Apollonia con fregio di taffettà in cima, alto palmi 1½ lungo palmi 2" (unpublished inventory pointed out to Pepper by Carolyn Wood). The painting is listed again in the inventory drawn up at the time of the Cardinal's death in 1633, as: "Un quadretto d'una Santa Apolla alto pmi uno, e mezzo longo pmi uno e tre quarti cornice nera toccata d'oro di mano di Guido Bolognese".5  This identification is by no means certain, given that the picture's dimensions are given as broader than they are high, but since the painting was acquired in Rome by the Abbé d'Estrées it is quite feasible that it may have had Ludovisi provenance. Cardinal Ludovisi's collection was dispersed soon after his death and throughout the ensuing decades of the 17th century: the Earl of Arundel's agent in Rome negotiated the acquisition of a number of pictures in 1636; Prince Ludovisi himself sent two masterpieces by Titian to the King of Spain in the following year; and countless pictures made their way to France throughout the 1650s, '60s and '70s. Reni's copper was bought by Philippe II, Duc d'Orléans, directly from the Abbé d'Estrées and it is listed in his posthumous inventory of 1724.6  It then passed by descent to Louis, Duc d'Orléans (1703-1752), and is listed in his 1752 posthumous inventory,7 and was subsequently inherited by his grandson Louis-Philippe II Joseph, called 'Philippe Égalité', to whom Jacques Couché dedicated his volume on the Palais-Royal in 1786. One of fourteen paintings by Guido Reni in the Orléans collection, this copper was reproduced as an engraving by Nicolet and the text accompanying the work was written by the Abbé de Fontenai: "Peint sur Cuivre, ayant de hauteur 1 Pied 4 Pouces, sur 1 Pied de large... Ce Tableau est une des plus belles productions de Guide: il réunit la beauté et la trasparence du coloris, aux graces de l'expression, à l'élégance du Dessin, et au fini le plus précieux. Il est parfaitement bien conservé."The painting was included in the Orléans sale in 1798 and was subsequently owned by the leading collector George Watson-Taylor, M.P., who lent the painting to the British Institution in 1818. When it was sold from Watson-Taylor's collection the painting was described as 'Guido - The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia, on copper. An exquisite cabinet jewel, formerly in the Orleans collection. In the printed account of the contents of that famous Gallery, it is noticed, that this Picture was first brought from Rome, by the Cardinal d'Estrées, from whence it passed into the possession of the Regent.'

It was acquired at the Watson-Taylor sale by 'Count Woronzow' who is probably to be identified with Count Semen (or Semyon) Romanovich Worontsow (or Vorontsov) (1744-1832), Russia's longtime ambassador in London who remained here even after his retirement. The family was elevated to the status of Kniaz, or Prince, in 1852, and are generally referred to as the Princes Vorontsov in Russian sources. The identity of the Countess, in whose possession the painting was in Florence, is less clear. Semen Romanovich's son, Mikhail Semenovich, married Elizaveta Branitskaia, but neither was still alive in 1900. Another branch of the family moved to Florence and converted to Catholicism and these are therefore more likely to have been the owners of Villa Woronzow: these were Countess Maria Artem'evna Vorontsova (1778-1866) and her sister Countess Anna Artem'evna Vortontsova (1777-1829), wife of Count Dimitri Petrovich Buturlin (1763-1829) who was Director of the Imperial Hermitage for a time. Their children would have been Counts Buturlin so the 'Countess Worontsow' may be identifiable with yet another family member; Sofia Illarionova Vorontsova-Dashkova (1870-1953) who was the wife of Efim Pavlovich Demidov, Prince of San Donato (1868-1943).

Apollonia was a Christian virgin martyr saint who, having refused to worship pagan gods, was punished by having her teeth drawn and was then condemned to death by being burnt at the stake. Her death in 249 A.D. was described by Denis, the Archbishop of Alexandria, as follows: "They seized that marvellous aged virgin Apollonia, broke out all her teeth with blows on her jaws, and piling up a bonfire before the city, threatened to burn her alive if she refused to recite with them their blasphemous sayings. But she asked for a brief delay and without flinching leaptinto the fire and was consumed."9  Although Jacobus de Voragine describes Apollonia in The Golden Legend as toothless and advanced in age, many artists and Reni in particular chose to portray her in all her youthful beauty and vulnerability. Here Apollonia is bound to a pillar while a brutish executioner threateningly approaches her with forceps: Reni spares us the violence of the scene obviously entails and our attention is focused, as is that of Apollonia and the executioner himself, on the angel about to fly down and present her with a garland of flowers and the martyr's palm. As pointed out by Edgar Peters Bowron, devotion to Saint Apollonia was greatly inspired by the writings of the ecclesiastical historian Cardinal Cesare Baronio (1538-1607), and Reni himself chose to depict her numerous times during his years of activity in Rome.

1. Pepper dated the painting to 1612-14 in his 1988 monograph and revised this to circa 1614 in the 1988-89 exhibition catalogue (see both under Literature).
2. Pepper accepted both as autograph in his 1988 monograph, in the 1988-89 exhibition catalogue, and in his response to the 1989 review of it (see Literature). In the Italian edition of the 1988-89 exhibition catalogue the entry was written by Francesca Valli who, having never seen either version in the flesh, described the present work's unevenness in execution and speculated that it might be 'una buona replica di bottega' or a 'ritocco' by Reni (a possibility left open by Spear in his 1989 review of the exhibition, and reiterated in his more recent book on Reni (1997), who, however, recognised this version's 'very high quality' and the subtlety of the qualitative differences between the two works). Upon inspection of the painting and the evident quality of it, the exhibition committee asked Pepper to write an entirely new entry for the English edition of the catalogue in which the attribution is not in the slightest bit questioned. A juxtaposition of the two coppers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1991 confirmed the autograph status (and different dates of execution) of both paintings.
3. The earlier variant is published by Pepper, op. cit., 1988, cat. no. 15. Malvasia cited a painting of this subject in the Barberini collection: "il manigoldo che in piedi con la tanaglia cava i denti a S. Apollonia legata ritta ad un palo ed un Angeletto sopra, in rame" and a painting of similar description is listed in the 1671 posthumous inventory of Cardinal Antonio Barberini: "un quadretto in Rame di p.mo 1½ e 2 con il Martirio di S. Apolonia del Guido reno Con Cornice nera no. 1" (M.A. Lavin, Seventeenth-Century Barberini Documents and Inventories of Art, New York 1975, p. 298, no. 150) and again in 1672. Pepper misread the documents of the Barberini archive and wrongly assumed that the original had passed out of the collection after 1671 and that a copy had entered it in 1672. He therefore wrongly assumed that another version was painted in the 18th century to replace the copy sold to the King of Poland (now in Dresden), but subsequent cleaning of the picture led Pepper to believe it was indeed autograph and datable to 1607-8. Listed in Barberini inventories of 1817 and 1844, the painting was described as 'School of Reni' in the protocol of the Fidecommisso Barberini on 26 April 1934. The painting was subsequently with Matthiesen Gallery in 1989 and Roy Fisher Fine Arts, New York, in 1997. There can be no doubt that this is one and the same as the ex-Barberini picture for its Fidecommisso number (F.26) is inscribed in the lower right corner.
4. G. Degli Espositi, in Guido Reni 1575-1642, exhibition catalogue, Bologna, Pinacoteca Nazionale, 5 September - 5 November 1988; Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 11 December 1988 - 12 February 1989; Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, 11 March - 14 May 1989, p. 218, cat. no. 22, reproduced in colour.
5. See K. Garas, under Literature.
6. Archives Nationales, Xia 9.162; according to Stryienski, under Literature.
7. Archives Nationales, Xia 9.170; according to Stryienski, op. cit..
8. See Couché, under Literature. 'Painted on copper, 1 pied and 4 pouces high, by 1 pied wide... This painting is one of the most beautiful examples of Guido's output: it combines the beauty and transparency of colouring, and grace of expression, with elegance of design and a highly polished finish. It is perfectly preserved'.
9. Cited by E.P. Bowron, see Literature, p. 263.