The Divine

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About the exhibition

Misunderstood, ignored, forgotten – in a large-scale exhibition to take place in the winter of 2022/23, the Städel Museum is rediscovering the onetime star painter of the Italian Baroque: Guido Reni (1575–1642). Despised in the nineteenth century on account of the aesthetic preferences of that era, later relegated to the sidelines by the one-sided concentration on his rival Caravaggio, Reni today no longer occupies the place he deserves in the public consciousness. In his own day, he was one of Europe’s most successful and most celebrated painters, sought after by such prominent patrons as the Borghese Pope Paul V, the Duke of Mantua, and the Queen of England. A contemporary biography provides insights into his artistic activities in Bologna and Rome, but also his ambiguous personality: it portrays him as an artist both deeply religious and superstitious, both tremendously successful and hopelessly addicted to gambling.

Whether his subject matter was the Christian heaven or the world of classical mythology, Guido Reni was unmatched in his ability to translate the beauty of the divine into painting. In cooperation with the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, the Städel Museum is bringing his fascinating paintings, drawings, and etchings together in an exhibition for the first time in more than thirty years, and thus offering a new perspective on his art. In addition to outstanding loans from well-known collections such as the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna, the Uffizi in Florence, the J. Paul Getty Museum and the LACMA in Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Louvre in Paris, the show will feature several recently discovered works by Reni that have never before been on view in an exhibition.

An exhibition of the Städel Museum in cooperation with the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

Curator: Dr. Bastian Eclercy (Head Italian, French, and Spanish Paintings before 1800, Städel Museum)
Project management: Aleksandra Rentzsch (Assistant Curator of Italian, French and Spanish paintings before 1800)

Picture: Guido Reni, Bacchus and Ariadne, ca. 1614–16, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, Photo: Los Angeles County Museum of Art



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    Guido Reni, Hippomenes and Atalanta, ca. 1615–18

    Guido Reni (1575–1642)

    Hippomenes and Atalanta, ca. 1615–18 Oil on canvas, 193 × 272 cm (later extended state 206 × 279 cm)
    Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
    Photo: Archivo Fotográfico Museo Nacional del Prado (José Baztán y Alberto Otero)

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    Guido Reni, Assumption of the Virgin, ca. 1598/99

    Guido Reni (1575–1642)

    Assumption of the Virgin, ca. 1598/99
    Oil on copper, 58 x 44,4 cm
    Frankfurt, Städel Museum
    Photo: Städel Museum

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    Guido Reni, Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, ca. 1630

    Guido Reni (1575–1642)

    Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, ca. 1630
    Oil on canvas, 126,4 × 169,5 cm
    Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum
    Photo: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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    Guido Reni, David with the Head of Goliath, ca. 1605/06

    Guido Reni (1575–1642)

    David with the Head of Goliath, ca. 1605/06
    Oil on canvas, 228 x 163 cm
    Orléans, Musée des Beaux-Arts
    Photo: © Orléans, Musée des Beaux-Arts

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    Guido Reni, Penitent Magdalene, ca. 1635

    Guido Reni (1575–1642)

    Penitent Magdalene, ca. 1635
    Oil on canvas, 90 × 74,3 cm
    Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum
    Photo: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

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    Guido Reni, Immaculate Conception, 1627

    Guido Reni (1575–1642)

    Immaculate Conception, 1627
    Oil on canvas, 268 × 185,4 cm
    New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Your Visit

Your Visit

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Guided tours for groups

Please request appointments for group offerings using the form provided.

Note for holders of the MuseumsuferCard

Since 1 January 2022, the MuseumsuferCard is valid at the Städel Museum for visits to the permanent collection and special exhibitions from the museum’s own holdings. Major special exhibitions with international loans such as “GUIDO RENI. The Divine” are excluded from this offer. Find more information here.

Researching Reni

Researching Reni

One of the most celebrated artworks by the Italian Baroque painter Guido Reni (1575–1642) is currently in conservation at the Städel Museum. “Christ at the Column” (c. 1604) is a masterpiece by the star painter of the 17th century.

The conservation is made possible through the support of funding through Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project.

The conservation work sees the removal of old varnish from the painting along with retouching and overpainting that has taken place over the years.

In an online event broadcast live from the museum’s conservation department, curator Bastian Eclercy and conservators Lilly Becker and Stephan Knobloch provided insight into the history of the artwork and the conservation process.

The Painting’s Conservation

The painting has already been on permanent display in the Gallery of Old Masters at the Städel Museum for several years. However, the aesthetic condition was poor: a yellowed layer of varnish, discoloured retouches, and old overpainting, inter alia, obscured the painting. As a result, the characteristic colouring and the spatiality of the original work has been lost.

The conservation work focuses mainly on the removal of these later interventions. It corrects previous treatments and enhances the painting’s aesthetic as a whole. Apart from the mere conservation, further research and an in-depth scientific examination of Christ at the Column are being carried out, leading to new art technological insights and a detailed re-evaluation of this masterpiece.

The Painting’s Significance

After training in his native Bologna, Guido Reni moved to Rome, the melting pot of artistic innovation from all over Europe, in 1601. In the Eternal City he soon entered in rivalry with Caravaggio. Within a period of only several years he altered his style and “transformed himself into Caravaggio”, as his early biographer Carlo Cesare Malvasia (1678) put it. That means, Reni programmatically and selectively imitated aspects of Caravaggio’s art, above all the latter’s famous chiaroscuro. However, even in this “naturalistic” period, he never gave up his obsession with elegance and beauty.

The painting Christ at the Column (c. 1604) is probably Reni’s first work in this new style. God’s son is standing at the column with his head bowed. He steps out of the darkness into the light and faces his fate, waiting for the blows of the henchmen. Christ is tied to the Column of the Flagellation – almost a “portrait” of the famous relic revered to the present day in the Roman Basilica of Santa Prassede. And it was this monastery’s guesthouse where Reni lived in those years, working for cardinals like Paolo Emilio Sfondrati and Antonio Maria Gallo. Yet the painter does not depict the Flagellation in the traditional way as a narrative including the henchmen. Instead, he directs the viewer’s attention to the figure of Christ alone, his ambiguous feelings in this moment, his strength and his faith.

The Städel Museum’s exhibition “GUIDO RENI. The Divine” will devote an entire section to Reni’s engagement with Caravaggio and juxtapose the Frankfurt canvas to other masterpieces by his hand from the same period for the first time. Visitors will be able to directly compare the restored painting with The Martyrdom of Saint Catherine (c. 1606; Albenga, Museo Diocesano), David with the Head of Goliath (c. 1605/06; Orléans, Musée des Beaux-Arts) and several other works. Art-historical research by the curator of the exhibition and Head of Italian, French and Spanish Paintings before 1800, Bastian Eclercy, is accompanying the conservation project, and the results will be presented in an extensive entry in the catalogue.

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    Conservation of Guido Reni’s “Christ at the Column”, Levelling of the fillings

    Researching Reni: Conservation of Guido Reni’s masterpiece “Christ at the Column”
    Levelling of the fillings
    Photo: Städel Museum – Eva Bader

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    Guido Reni, Christ at the Column, c. 1604 (before conservation)

    Guido Reni (1575–1642)
    Christ at the Column, c. 1604 (before conservation)
    Oil on Canvas
    192.7 x 114.4 cm
    Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
    © Städel Museum - ARTOTHEK

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    Conservation of Guido Reni’s “Christ at the Column”, Head during varnish reduction

    Researching Reni: Conservation of Guido Reni’s masterpiece “Christ at the Column”
    Head during varnish reduction
    Photo: Städel Museum – Lilly Becker



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Gemeinnützige Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain GmbH, Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.