Artibus et Historiae no. 25 (XIII)

1992, ISSN 0391-9064

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D. STEPHEN PEPPER - Guido Reni's Davids: The Triumph of Illumination

This article discusses four versions of David Contemplating the Head of Goliath in which Guido Reni was directly involved. The paintings range in date from 1605 to c. 1639, nearly spanning Reni's period of activity. Three of the works are referred to in a letter written in 1631 by Cardinal Bernardino Spada, including the earliest one, now in the Louvre, and a version started by Francesco Gessi and retouched by Reni (here identified as the David which was once in the Liechtenstein gallery in Vienna). The letter establishes a second autograph

David painted before 1631; this is very likely the privately-owned painting that was recently on loan to the National Gallery, London.

One can follow the evolution of Reni's style from the modified Caravaggism of the first David, through the luminosity of his seconda maniera as seen in the second autograph version to the immaterial vision of his last years which is exemplified by his final treatment of the subject, recently discovered by thi author in a private collection in Milan.

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