Today, the 16th of August, is Madonna’s birthday. So, in celebration and for this weeks Find it Friday I thought we could have a look at a collections item that is very much in relation to Madonna, in fact it is a painting of her!
Well, THE Madonna. The Virgin Mary.
‘Virgin With Child ‘.
As you can see on the small plaque at the bottom of the frame this oil on canvas painting is by an artist called Guido Reni and is another painting from the John Benjamin Smith collection mentioned in an earlier post (HERE) regarding paintings heading out for conservation in preparation of an exhibition coming up in 2014. However, this is not one of the paintings involved.
This painting depicts the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus. The child is situated in the bottom left and is wrapped in light coloured cloths. The Virgin is standing over him with her arms crossed over her chest. She is wearing a red gown and has a light coloured shawl around her head and both the Virgin and child have halos.
This description might seem quite detailed and specific for a painting you are looking straight at, however this is the kind of description that its Modes record will require just in case for some reason the record doesn’t hold a photograph or you can not access it; this gives you a good idea of what the painting shows and, basically, what it looks like.
The frame is wood and gilt. Gilt being the process of guilding, where gold leaf or powder is applied to the wood resulting in a fine layer of gold. This frame is very typical in appearance, style and material to the rest of the Benjamin Smith collection.
Guido Reni was an Italian artist and part of the Baroque movement; easily visible in his work, especially ‘Massacre of the Innocents’, however this may not be the best painting to see his dramatic and tension inducing qualities. However, does that mean that this painting could not really be a Reni? Of course not, but it is thought that this might be the case. If it was a Reni, it would be at the very least 371 years old as it is the anniversary of Guido Reni’s death in two days. (18th August 1642.)
Guido Reni was originally believed to be the artist but after some research it is thought that it is simply in the style of Reni. It is now a speculation that this painting is possibly by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato, another Italian Baroque painter of the same time as Reni. If it is a Sassoferrato it will still be relatively the same age.
It is unfortunate that if this painting is the work of Sassoferrato that he is not being given credit for such a lovely painting, despite its wear, a few scratches here and there and obvious darkening of the colours. However, perhaps we will never quite know for sure who is responsible. It is a mystery, not the biggest mystery that has ever surrounded The Virgin Mary, but a mystery none the less.