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Artist: Reni, Guido 1 of 1

Saint Cecilia, 1606

Guido Reni

Italian, 1575-1642
Oil on canvas
37-3/4 x 29-1/2 in. (95.9 x 74.9 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1973.23.P
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, was an early Christian martyr. According to legend, she could play any musical instrument and was so exalted she could hear the singing of angels. Following the discovery of her remains in 1599, Cardinal Emilio Sfondrato, who was deeply involved in the archaeological investigations then being carried out in Rome, built a church in her honor in Trastevere. He commissioned Guido Reni to portray the saint as though communicating, by means of music, with the heavens above. The great Bolognese artist’s gift for depicting outward beauty and pious sentiment combine movingly in this fictive portrait of Cecilia.

In 1608 the painting sold to Cardinal Scipione Caffarelli-Borghese who was, at that time, a patron of Reni. It remained in his private collection until the beginning of the nineteenth century when it passed to Lucien Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon.

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Artist: Reni, Guido 1 of 1