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Guido Reni (Bologna 1575-1642)
Guido Reni (Bologna 1575-1642)
Guido Reni (Bologna 1575-1642)
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Property of a Gentleman
Guido Reni (Bologna 1575-1642)

Allegory of Fortune, holding a crown

Details
Guido Reni (Bologna 1575-1642)
Allegory of Fortune, holding a crown
oil on canvas
64 ¾ x 51 5/8 in. (164.4 x 131 cm.)
Provenance
Painted for Monsignor Jacopo Altoviti, Florence.
Palazzo Falconieri, Rome.
Fidanza and Bersani, Rome, from whom purchased 20 November 1800 for 500 piastres by the following,
James Irvine (1757-1831) on behalf of Alexander Gordon (1765-1849), Edinburgh.
Michael Astor (1916-1980), Nettlebed, Oxfordshire, until circa 1975.
Cecil Hourani, Oxford and London, by 1982.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 8 July 1987, lot 37.
Frederick W. Field (b. 1953); Christie's, London, 5 July 1991, lot 18, when acquired.
Literature
F. Baldinucci, Notizie de' Professori del Disegno da Cimabue in qua, Florence, 1702, V, pp. 327-328; ed. 1846, IV, pp. 29-30.
W. Buchanan, Memoirs of Painting with a Chronological History of the Importation of Pictures by the Great Masters into England since the French Revolution, London, 1824, II, p. 91.
H. Brigstocke, William Buchanan and the 19th Century Art Trade: 100 Letters to his Agents in London and Italy, London, 1982, pp.158-159, 225, 302-303, 327 and 421-422.
S. Pepper, Guido Reni, Oxford, 1984, p. 277, no.166B, pl.194 and colour pl. XII.
S. Pepper, Guido Reni L'Opera Completa, 2nd ed., Novara, 1988, pp. 287-288, no.159, pl. XII.
S. Pepper and D. Mahon, 'Guido Reni's 'Fortune with a Purse' Rediscovered', The Burlington Magazine, CXLI, no. 1152, March 1999, pp. 156 and 157, fig. 18, notes 1 and 16-17.
H. Brigstocke, 'James Irvine: A Scottish Artist in Italy. Picture Buying in Italy for William Buchanan and Arthur Champernowne', The Walpole Society, LXXIV, 2012, pp. 337, 434, 441 and 462.

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Henry Pettifer
Henry Pettifer

Lot Essay

By the late 1630s, Guido Reni had established himself as one of the leading artists of his generation. Under the guidance first of Denys Calvaert in Bologna, and then of Annibale Carracci in Rome, Reni became a key figure in the early Baroque, with a rare ability to create compositions full of grace, complexity and beauty, imbued with a particularly sensitive understanding of colour. It made him one of the most successful artists of the seventeenth century, with a reputation that would endure beyond his lifetime; Reni’s work was frequently copied and collected well into the nineteenth century.
Reni is known to have painted two versions of the Fortuna, showing, in both, the allegorical female figure full-length, holding a sceptre and palm in her left hand, as she flies mid-air over the globe, with her hair playfully tugged back by Cupid behind her. The versions differ in only one detail: in one, she holds a crown in her right hand, in the other a purse. The intriguing story of how the two versions came about is told by Reni’s biographers Filippo Baldinucci and Carlo Cesare Malvasia. Baldinucci recounts that he saw Fortuna, holding a crown, in Florence in the collection of Monsignor Jacopo Altoviti, before going on to detail the circumstances of the commission. Reni had first painted Fortuna with a Purse for the Abbate Giovanni Carlo Gavotti (Rome, Vatican Pinacoteca; Pepper, op. cit., 1984, no. 166A and pl. 193) and had handed it over to him with a request that it was not to be shown to the public as it was not finished to his satisfaction. Reni’s wishes were not granted however: the picture was exhibited without his permission in one of the grandest porticoes of Bologna on one of the most important feast days. Infuriated, Reni returned home and requested to be brought to his rooms a copy which he knew to have been painted by Antonio Gerola, il Veronese, 'il primo fra gli eccellenti allieve del pittore', on behalf of Monsignor Altoviti. This he completely reworked 'e tutta col suo pennello la ricoperse', painting a crown in the hand of Fortune in place of the purse to great acclaim, even, in Baldinucci’s eyes, surpassing Gavotti’s picture: 'e fu di comune consentimento de'professori tenuto questo quadro di monsignore d'assai maggior pregio di quello del Gavotti'.
The present canvas was first identified by Denis Mahon as the Altoviti picture in circa 1982, when it was in the collection of Cecil Hourani. It was subsequently published as such by Stephen Pepper, who dated the picture to 1637-40, when Reni’s palette became considerably lighter and he made greater use of the pale tones seen here. It is a dating supported by documentary evidence of Altoviti's presence in Bologna visiting his cousin Cardinal Giulio Sacchetti, who was Legate in the city from 1637 to 1640. In 1999, in response to Mahon and Pepper’s article documenting the rediscovery of Fortuna with a Purse (R. Spear, ‘Letter. Guido Reni’s ‘Fortuna’’, The Burlington Magazine, CXLI, no. 1156, July 1999, p. 422), Richard Spear queried whether the present painting was fully autograph. Another version of Fortuna with a Crown is mentioned in the seventeenth century in the collection of Cardinal Sacchetti, where it is listed as a copy by Giovanni Andrea Sirani. This picture now carries an attribution to Reni, and is kept at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome (inv. no. 429).

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