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

Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, was venerated for her chastity. According to legend, on the day of her forced marriage to a pagan, Cecilia used the cadence of wedding music to sing to God in her heart. Seventeenth-century representations often visualize this private melody by depicting Cecilia as a musician. In this painting by Guido Reni, she holds a violin in an unusual position—balanced on a table rather than cradled against her shoulder or chest—though the careful placement of her fingers suggests knowledge of the instrument. Cecilia’s upturned eyes guide her music heavenward. In the saint’s dedicated church in Rome, devotees used this painting for meditation, imagining Cecilia’s devout song, perhaps mingled with audible music filling the church around them.


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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