Guido Reni in Rome

Caravaggio, Raphael, and Bernini seem to get all the attention.  But there are other artists who have spent part of their lives in Rome and also deserve our appreciation. One of those artists is Guido Reni.


Guido Reni’s self-portrait, at Palazzo Barberini

Guido Reni (1575 – 1642) was one of the most prolific painters of the Baroque Period. Born in Bologna, he was active in Rome, where many of his works survive, some in the churches or palaces for which they were made.

Palazzo Quirinale, Cappella dell’Annunziata, The Virgin Sewing, by Guido Reni

He largely produced religious works and mythological scenes. A beautiful painting of his can be found in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, over the Capuchin Crypt (many people see the crypt but never venture into the church, which is a shame).

Guido Reni’s Archangel Michael Defeating Satan

Several other masterpieces by Reni are in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica:

St. Mary Magdalene, by Guido Reni, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica

One of my personal favorites of his works is the lovely Romantic painting of Roman heroine Beatrice Cenci, in Galleria Barberini. If you’re not aware of her sad tale, she and her family murdered her abusive father, and then were condemned to death.

The tragic Beatrice Cenci

Sometimes Reni painted portraits of illustrious Romans:

Cardinal Bernardino Spada situated in, appropriately enough, Galleria Spada

Sometimes his work has shades of Caravaggio:

Fighting Putti by Guido Reni, Doria Pamphilj Gallery

Other times his work reminds me of Raphael, and then some reminds me of Spanish paintings:

Praying Virgin by Guide Reni, Fondazione Sorgente Group

Perhaps his greatest work is at the top of this post, the Aurora ceiling fresco, which he completed in 1614 for the little Casino of Palazzo Pallavicini-Rospigliosi. This fresco depicts the goddess of the dawn leading Apollo in his horse-drawn chariot, bringing light to the world. He is surrounded by the Horae, goddesses of the seasons.

You can see the Aurora ceiling for yourself.  I was supposed to see it during my trip to Rome last May, a trip that could not happen due to COVID… but it is nice to know it is there, waiting for me.