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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
© 2012 The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Saint 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. Here, with her eyes turned toward heaven, she plays a violin; in the background is an organ.

The elegant "Saint Cecilia" exhibits the refined sensibility and pious sentimentality that made Guido Reni the most sought-after Bolognese painter of the seventeenth century. This early work was commissioned from Reni by Cardinal Sfondrato, who enthusiastically promoted the cult of Saint Cecilia after the discovery of her remains in 1599. The picture was soon acquired by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, another prominent Roman patron of Reni, and was later owned by Lucien Bonaparte and by Marie-Louise Josephine, Queen of Etruria.

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