Few artists have depicted the suffering Christ with greater empathy and tenderness than Guido Reni. This moving composition is one that Reni returned to on a number of occasions throughout his career, and which exerted a huge influence on later generations, inspiring several engravings and numerous later copies. The subject would seem to derive from the large-scale Crucifixion of the Cappucini, now in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna, dating from 1617-18. Reni conceived the idea of focusing solely on Christ's head and shoulders, at the moment of his greatest suffering, and soon after executed the picture of oval format on copper, now in the Corsini Gallery, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome (see D.S. Pepper, Guido Reni. A Complete Catalogue of his Works, Oxford, 1984, p. 235, no. 56, pl. 83). This emotionally charged composition proved to be extremely popular and Reni executed a number of other autograph versions, all with slight variations. Another copper in the Detroit Institute of Arts (no. 89.23; ibid., no. 146A, pl. 172, dated 1633-4) is very similar to the Rome panel, while a slightly larger version on canvas, and also of oval format, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (inv. no. 528; ibid., no. 188, pl. 216) relates closely to the head of Christ in another Crucifixion in the Galleria Estense, Modena, dated 1639-40. While both the Rome and Detroit pictures depict a Christ who is clearly on the Cross, the Louvre picture shows him holding a staff in the manner of an Ecce Homo. The present work can now be added to the list of autograph versions and we are grateful to Professor Andrea Emiliani for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs. Here the pose is similar to the two earlier coppers (with which it shares similar dimensions), though like the Louvre picture, Christ is here depicted before being nailed to the Cross. He wears a light red robe over his shoulders, with no traces of blood visible on his torso. Its closest parallel is with another autograph version on canvas, and of slightly larger dimensions, now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (A3416), and probably dates from the mid-1630s.
Auberon Herbert, 8th Lord Lucas, was the World War I flying ace who went missing presumed killed in action in 1916 and was subsequently immortalised by John Buchan in his These for Remembrance and the subject of Maurice Baring's In Memoriam A.H.. This picture was one of a group of pictures sold in these Rooms by Lord Lucas shortly after the death of his uncle, the 7th Earl Cowper. The sale was conducted anonymously, and the provenance therefore not detailed, but the pictures were all presumably part of the collection that he had inherited from Lord Cowper. The latter had inherited two separate collections: from his father, that assembled largely by George Nassau, 3rd Earl Cowper (1738-1789), and from his mother, the de Grey collection, formed by Amabel, Countess de Grey and Baroness Lucas (1750-1833), her great-grandfather, Henry Grey, 1st Duke of Kent (1671-1740), and his father, Anthony, 11th Earl Grey (1645-1702). On Lord Cowper's death, the de Grey inheritance passed by entail to Lord Lucas, and the Cowper to the latter's first cousin, Lady Desborough.