A Very Fine Italian 17th Century Oval Oil on Canvas "Head of Christ Crowned with Thorns" attributed to Guido Reni (Bologna, 1575-1642) within its original gilt wood and gesso carved frame. A crown of thorns was placed on Christ’s head in the lead up to his crucifixion, while Roman soldiers mockingly declared him ‘King of the Jews’ (Matthew 27: 29). This detailed portrayal of Christ’s face convincingly conveys his anguish in the aftermath of this torment. Guido Reni and his studio produced numerous versions of this composition. Circa: 1630-1640.
Canvas Height: 15 1/2 inches (39.4 cm)
Canvas Width: 12 3/8 inches (31.4 cm)
Ref.: A2528 - Lot 11351
The Head of Christ or Ecce Homo is one of the most frequently represented subjects in seventeenth-century painting. Following the Counter-Reformation (the self-imposed disciplining of the Catholic Church to ‘counter’ the successes of the Protestant Reformation), portrayals of Christ’s suffering became increasingly popular, as such images provoked empathy and devotion in viewers. One of the functions of seventeenth-century art was to instil an understanding of human experience, and Reni’s expressive, close-up images of the suffering Christ did just that.
Guido Reni (Bologna, 4 November 1575 – 18 August 1642) was an Italian painter of the Baroque period, although his works showed a classical manner, similar to Simon Vouet, Nicholas Poussin, and Philippe de Champaigne. He painted primarily religious works, but also mythological and allegorical subjects. Active in Rome, Naples, and his native Bologna, he became the dominant figure in the Bolognese School that emerged under the influence of the Carracci.
Born in Bologna into a family of musicians, Guido Reni was the only child of Daniele Reni and Ginevra Pozzi. At the age of nine, he was apprenticed to 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 Ludovico Carracci. They went on to form the nucleus of a prolific and successful school of Bolognese painters who followed Lodovico'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. Around this time he made his first prints, a series commemorating Pope Clement VIII's visit to Bologna in 1598.
Reni was the most famous Italian artist of his generation. Through his many pupils, he had wide-ranging influence on later Baroque. In the center of Bologna he established two studios, teeming with nearly 200 pupils. His most distinguished pupil was Simone Cantarini, named Il Pesarese, who painted the portrait of his master now in the Bolognese Gallery.Reni's other Bolognese pupils included Antonio Randa (early on in his career considered the best pupil of Reni, until he tried to kill his master), Vincenzo Gotti, Emilio Savonanzi, Sebastiano Brunetti,Tommaso Campana, Domenico Maria Canuti, Bartolomeo Marescotti, Giovanni Maria Tamburino, and Pietro Gallinari (Pierino del Signor Guido).
Other artists who trained under Reni include Antonio Buonfanti (il Torricello), Antonio Giarola (Cavalier Coppa), Giovanni Battista Michelini, Guido Cagnacci, Giovanni Boulanger of Troyes, Paolo Biancucci of Lucca, Pietro Ricci or Righi of Lucca, Pietro Lauri Monsu, Giacomo Semenza, Gioseffo and Giovanni Stefano Danedi, Giovanni Giacomo Manno, Carlo Cittadini of Milan, Luigi Scaramuccia, Bernardo Cerva, Francesco Costanzo Cattaneo of Ferrara, Francesco Gessi, and Marco Bandinelli.
Beyond Italy, Reni's influence was important in the style of many Spanish Baroque artists, such as Jusepe de Ribera and Murillo. But his work was particularly appreciated in France—Stendhal believed Reni must have had "a French soul"—and influenced generations of French artists such as Le Sueur, Le Brun, Vien, and Greuze; as well as on later French Neoclassic painters. In the 19th century, Reni's reputation declined as a result of changing taste—epitomized by John Ruskin's censorious judgment that the artist's work was sentimental and false. A revival of interest in Reni has occurred since 1954, when an important retrospective exhibition of his work was mounted in Bologna.
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