The Divine Guido: Religion, Sex, Money, and Art in the World of Guido Reni

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9780300070354: The Divine Guido: Religion, Sex, Money, and Art in the World of Guido Reni

In this highly original study of Italian baroque master Guido Reni (1575-1642), Richard Spear paints a compelling portrait of the artist - his complexities, his formative experiences, his cultural surroundings, and his unique sensibilities. Spear views Reni's career from a wide variety of perspectives and sets his life and works in social, economic, historical, artistic, religious, and psychological contexts. The author focuses first on Reni's peculiar character: a man at once deeply religious, rabidly misogynist, reportedly virginal, neurotically fearful of witches, and addicted to gambling. The author considers the enduring charisma of Reni's Crucifixions, weeping Marys, and repentant saints in the light of the Catholic doctrinal meaning of grace in Reni's time, the Church's attitude toward Mary and women, and the gendered implications of visual grace. Chapters on Reni's pricing policies, selling strategies, use of assistants, and attitude toward what constituted an "original, " expose the motivating importance of money for Reni, and the concerns, even among seventeenth-century collectors, about how to distinguish original paintings from studio replicas or copies. The book investigates the ways renaissance and baroque attitudes toward art-making affected Reni and closes with a fresh view of Reni's unfinished canvases and last style, including the Divine Love, the beautiful and unusual painting that remained in Reni's studio at the time of his death.

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The author is a professor of art history with an unusual approach to his subject, Guido Reni (1575-1642). He discusses the interlocking effects of "Religion, Sex, Money and Art" in the work of a painter who was violently pious, an addicted gambler always greedy for money, a believer in witchcraft, a homosexual by inclination (not necessarily by practice), and a man very testy about his social status. Not an attractive figure. The author attempts to sort out how much of Reni's conduct is attributable to ideas common at the time and how much can be considered the painter's personal invention. The discussion is most interesting when the author concentrates on his own reading of Reni's work (excellently illustrated) and his interpretation of Reni's actions, less so when he depends on outside authorities--for it seems that Professor Spear has never met a quotation he didn't like. -- The Atlantic Monthly, Phoebe-Lou Adams

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