Saint Cecilia

Guido Reni (Italian, 1575-1642)
Oil on canvas 
37-3/4 x 29-1/2 in. (95.9 x 74.9 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© 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.


Commissioned by Cardinal Paolo Emilio Sfondrati, Rome, 1606, sold 1608 to;
Cardinal Borghese Caffarelli, Scipione, by descent to heirs;
Lucien Bonaparte, Prince of Canino (1775-1840), Rome, by 1812, ceded in 1820 to;
Maria Louisa Josephine, Duchess of Lucca (Queen of Etruria), by inheritance to her son Carlo Lodovico di Borbone, Duke of Lucca; 1824-1840, brought to London for sale in 1840;
Marquess of Lansdowne (1854-1952), Lansdowne House, Bowood, Wiltshire, as Domenichino.
[David M. Koester, New York].
Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., New York, by 1962.
Robert Manning, New York, sold 29 May 1970 to;
[Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York, sold to];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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