Chiesa Parrocchiale di Santa Maria degli Alemanni, until circa 1792;
Counts Bianchetti, Bologna, 1822, by whom exhibited at the Loggia dei Servi (see below);
Henry Pelham-Clinton (1864-1928), 7th Duke of Newcastle;
His deceased sale ('Sold by Order of the Trustees of the 7th Duke of Newcastle, deceased'), London, Christie's, 25 October 1946, lot 63 (as 'Guido');
Private collection, Rome, until recently.
A. Masini, Bologna Perlustrata, Bologna 1650, p. 397;
A. Masini, Bologna Perlustrata, Bologna 1666, p. 372;
C.C. Malvasia, La Felsina Pittrice, manuscript, Biblioteca Comunale di Bologna, MS B17, circa 1660-75, p. 63;
C.C. Malvasia, Le Pitture di Bologna, 1686, p. 345, ed. A. Emiliani, Bologna 1969, p. 236;
Guida di Bologna: Il Patrimonio artistico ed architettonico, Bologna 1792, ed. 1979, p. 458;
C. Girotti, Memorie riguardanti la vita... Guido Reni, manuscript, Cassa di Risparmio, Bologna, MS 34/3132, 1847, p. 82;
S. Pepper, Guido Reni. A complete catalogue of his works with an introductory text, Oxford 1984, p. 270, cat. no. 146, reproduced plate 169;
S. Pepper, Guido Reni. L'opera completa, Novara 1988, p. 279, cat. no. 137, reproduced plate 127.
This arresting image of Christ was painted by Guido Reni for the altar of the Rosary in the parish church of Santa Maria degli Alemanni, just outside Bologna. It is most likely identifiable with the painting referred to by Masini who, in the later edition of his book (1666), records it as hanging on the altar above the ‘Immagine del Rosario’ of 1634.1 It was also seen there by Malvasia who described it as a “testa del Salvatore”, whose attribution to Guido was traditional.2 The painting is almost certainly that exhibited in the Loggia dei Servi in 1822, when it was lent by the Counts Bianchetti of Bologna. It is unknown when exactly the painting may have left Santa Maria degli Alemanni and entered the collection of the Bianchettis, but they presumably came into possession of the work after the suppression of the church, as is also suggested in the 1792 edition of the Guida di Bologna.3 The painting is dated by Pepper on stylistic grounds to circa 1633-34 and this seems plausible if one is to assume that Reni’s painting was executed around the same time or shortly before the ‘Immagine del Rosario’, dated by Masini to 1634. The ‘very light tonality and extremely fine modelling’ of Christ’s flesh tones in this picture have much in common with those in Reni’s Saint Jerome and the Angel in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, which is generally dated to circa 1634-35.4 Pepper points out further stylistic similarities between this painting and Reni’s Pala della Peste, painted as a votive standard celebrating relief from the plague of 1630 (today in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna).5 In his monograph Pepper noted two related drawings, though neither can be considered preparatory for this painting: one sold, London, Christie’s, 8 December 1976, lot 17, and the other in the Academia de San Fernando, Madrid (inv. 345).
The iconography in this painting is unusual as Christ is not shown in the traditional representation of Christ as ‘Salvator Mundi’, where He normally makes the sign of benediction or holds an orb with a cross. Nor is He an ‘Ecce Homo’ for He is not wounded or crowned with thorns. Instead Christ is seen frontally, with lips parted as if in mid-speech, and although the image has an extremely ‘iconic’ quality the representation is very naturalistic. The scale of the picture indicates that it would have been painted for private devotion and its position above a small altar in a side chapel suits its format perfectly.
1 “La Domenica prima di questo Mese [first Sunday of July], à S. Maria de gli Alemani, fuori di porta Maggiore, è la testa, in memoria della Coronatione di quell’Imagine del Rosario fatta del 1634. Sopra il cui Altare è una Testa del Salvatore in pittura di Guido Reni…”; see Masini, under Literature, 1666.
2 “Madonna de gl’Alamani. Oggi Parrocchia, e che altra stimabile pittura non vanta, che la testa di un Salvatore, che dicono sia del Signor Guido, ch’è nell’ornato sopra del quadro della Madonna del Rosario…”; see Malvasia, 1686 (ed. 1969), under Literature.
3 This information is given in a manuscript edition of Carlo Girotti’s biography of Guido Reni, written in 1847 and held in manuscript form at the Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna (see Literature).
4 See Pepper, under Literature, 1984, cat. no. 153, reproduced plate 179.
5 Pepper, op. cit., 1984, cat. 135, reproduced.
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