Reni, the most celebrated painter of seventeenth-century Italy, was particularly famous for the elegance of his compositions and the beauty and grace of his female heads, earning him the epithet “Divine.” This otherworldly altarpiece was commissioned in about 1627 by the Spanish ambassador in Rome for the Infanta of Spain. It was later in the cathedral of Seville, where it exercised a deep influence on Spanish painters, especially Murillo. It later belonged to the Earls of Ellesmere at Bridgewater House, London.
The Artist: One of the most celebrated as well as highly paid painters of his day, with a European reputation that rivaled that of Peter Paul Rubens (1575–1640), Reni is one of the defining figures of European painting. His art, with its emphasis on an ideal of abstract, feminine beauty—epitomized by the Renaissance concepts of grace ("grazia") and delicately expressive heads ("arie di teste")—earned him the epithet of "divino," or divine. He was seen not only as the inheritor of the legacy of Raphael, whose altarpiece of Saint Cecilia in Bologna was a major source of inspiration, but of the ancient painter Apelles. Such has been the lasting impact of the transformations of taste that attended the political and cultural revolutions of the nineteenth century (for which, see the classic study by Francis Haskell, Rediscoveries in Art, 1976) that it is difficult now to comprehend the extent of his fame. His Aurora, frescoed in 1614 on the vault of a loggia (the Casino dell’Aurora) in Rome, was one of the most famous works of the western canon, reproduced in thousands of engravings and photographs. His fame made him a prime target of John Ruskin’s assault on Baroque painting and his reputation has never recovered. In an influential book published in 1997, Richard Spear (see References) gives a modern deconstruction of Reni’s art, his complex and contradictory character (he was an inveterate gambler, deeply religious, and had an ambivalent sexuality), and his fame.
Born in Bologna in 1575, Guido Reni first apprenticed in the studio of the Flemish Mannerist Denys Calvaert (1540–1619) before moving to study with the Carracci family of painters. In the Carracci academy, Reni would have been exposed to the study of nature, the antique, the high Renaissance exemplars of Michelangelo and Raphael, and the painters of northern Italy such as Correggio and Parmigianino. Around 1602, Reni went to Rome, where by 1608 he had achieved great success, obtaining important commissions from Cardinal Emilio Sfondrato, Pope Paul V, and the Pope’s nephew Cardinal Scipione Borghese, for whom he painted his renowned Aurora. In 1613 Reni returned to Bologna, where he set up a prolific workshop. An infamously prickly artist, he was plagued by a gambling habit and could barely keep up with his debts or the constant demand for paintings. Despite a brief early phase in Rome when he experimented with the dramatic tenebrism of his archrival Caravaggio, Reni secured his great fame as a painter of beautiful and harmonious religious and mythological scenes and of devotional images of the Virgin Mary.
The Picture: The Met’s Immaculate Conception is a prime example of Reni’s celebrated depictions of the Virgin, with her upturned head and eyes directed towards heaven, her flawless features expressive of her purity, her hands devoutly joined in prayer, and the elegant inflection of her pose. Seen against a golden aura, or mandorla, bordered by ethereal heads of putti (cherubim), she stands on a crescent moon perched atop three heads of putti and is adored by two angels, who gaze at her in rapturous reverence. Their upward gaze was a signature of Reni’s, indebted to Raphael’s Saint Cecilia, a work in Bologna feverishly studied by local artists. Wearing her traditional pink robe and blue mantle, the Virgin is crowned by a circle of twelve stars. Conceived as a heavenly vision, on the model of Raphael’s Sistine Madonna (then in the church of San Sisto, Piacenza, and now in the Gemäldegalerie, Dresden), the work was painted in 1627, during a brief return to Rome to execute frescoes for St. Peter’s Basilica. Because of the idealization in the faces, the cool hues of the draperies and clouds, the golden glow of the heavens, and the porcelain-like treatment of skin tones, the work has been considered one of the prime early examples of what the seventeenth-century Bolognese biographer Carlo Cesare Malvasia referred to as Reni’s "secondo maniera," or second manner, in which a blond tonality and delicacy replace the more strongly modeled forms of his "first manner."
The Commission: The work’s harmonious balance and assured coolness contrast notably with the acrimonious conflict surrounding its commission. Full of international intrigue, Malvasia’s account is worth presenting in full:
"At the request of the Spanish ambassador, Guido, when he was in Rome, had undertaken to paint for the Infante of Spain a Blessed Virgin of the Immaculate Conception appearing between two angels. Everyday the ambassador sent someone, and sometimes he came without fanfare in person to speed up the work. On his arrival Guido retired into another room with the intention of having him told that he was not at home. The ambassador becoming frenzied sent to find out how long he would be. Guido responded—after having also made him understand that His Excellency should deign to calm himself and refrain from further actions—that when the painting was finished he would let him know. That is exactly what he did, at which point the ambassador made a cold reply, demonstrating in this way that he cared as little as earlier he had been impatient. After some time Guido sent him word that the painting was an encumbrance in the room and therefore His Excellency should do him the goodness of sending him the four hundred scudi agreed upon and have it taken away. In response he received word that the money was expected from Naples and when it arrived the ambassador would let him know without the need of any further communications from Guido. Seized with a fierce sense of indignation, Guido quickly pulled down the painted canvas, rolled it up and packed it, and sent it off by escort to Bologna and had word of what he had done bruited about Piazza di Spagna that night. The Spanish ambassador very nearly took swift revenge on him, but after considering that Guido, although not actually part of the pope’s household had, however, been brought to Rome and kept and protected by him, resolved to complain bitterly to the pope about him, supplicating His Holiness to let Guido go in order to mortify him. The pope, however, who did not wish to do this, excused Guido and promised to rebuke him and make him give every satisfaction. This is then what happened. The pope saw to it that Guido send for the painting, which had gotten as far as Rimini, and have it brought back." (Malvasia 1678; reprinted in The Life of Guido Reni, translated by Catherine Enggass and Robert Enggass, University Park, Pa, 1980, pp. 79–80)
The Met’s painting was related to the above account only in the twentieth century (see Fiocco 1958). Since then, several additional pieces of documentary evidence have substantiated Malvasia’s story, which was also told by Bellori (1672). The work has been connected to Reni’s August 1627 letter to Antonio Galeazzo Fibbia, in which the artist states that he has agreed to paint a large canvas for the Spanish Ambassador ("Ho accettato a far un quadro grande per l’Ambasciatore di Spagna."). Payments to porters tasked with bringing the painting from Rimini back to Rome confirm that Pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini) had to intercede to avoid an international incident (see Hibbard 1969; with these and additional documents published in Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, Seventeenth-Century Barberini Documents and Inventories of Art, New York, 1975, doc. nos. 255–60.)
In his study of Reni’s Abduction of Helen (Musée du Louvre, Paris), a work also commissioned for the Spanish Crown in the same years, Anthony Colantuono (1997) provides further context for the Immaculate Conception. He identifies the Spanish Ambassador as Iñigo Vélez de Guevara y Tasís, 5th Count of Oñate, who in 1626 had received the Pope’s nephew Cardinal Francesceo Barberini in Barcelona. Present in Rome from 1626 to 1628, Oñate was charged with establishing harmonious ties between King Philip IV and the Papacy, which was more inclined to favor France. The incident involving the irascible Reni and the Immaculate Conception perilously threatened this accord. For example, Piazza di Spagna, where, according to Malvasia, Reni had spread word of the fiasco, was the location of the Spanish Embassy after 1622 (see Colantuono 1997). The painting was eventually taken to Spain, where it was likely installed in Seville Cathedral.
Pepper (1984) suggests that the incident was a plot between Cardinal Giovanni Battista Pamphili, Spain, and Savoy to shame the Barberini family and force Pope Urban VIII to condemn Guido Reni, in a fashion similar to the Pope’s condemnation of Galileo in 1633. The intrigue continued with Reni’s painting of Saint Michael and the Angel for the church of Santa Maria della Concezione, commissioned by the papal nephew Cardinal Antonio Barberini. In this work, the devil was rumored to have the features of Cardinal Pamphili, a Barberini foe and hispanophile. According to Malvasia (1678; 1980 ed., p. 77), Guido protested that this was not the case: "He would not, he added, have been so foolhardy as to send such an insolent satire to Rome, particularly against such a great individual who, if because of his deformity he resembled the devil’s snout, it was not the fault of his brush, and he begged me to disabuse the court of this notion as soon as possible."
Such incidents did little to degrade Reni’s reputation. Witness the words of Pope Urban VIII, as quoted by Malvasia (1678; 1980 ed., p. 79): "It is known then how severely he treated the ambassadors of the reigning monarchs whom we ourselves respect. But he is right that everything is pardoned by his great virtue, there being but one Guido in the world."
Iconography: The subject of the Immaculate Conception was likely chosen by the Spanish crown to persuade Pope Urban VIII to confirm the concept as dogma (Colantuono 1997). Throughout the sixteenth century, Protestant reformers had strongly rejected the belief that Mary was conceived without sin. More generally, the emphasis on Marian devotion was seen as threatening to Christ’s centrality in Church thought. Though the doctrine was not officially upheld until 1854, when Pius IX insisted upon the Virgin’s freedom from original sin, the belief had become widespread within the Catholic Church since the Medieval period. The issue had gained considerable urgency following the closing session of the Council of Trent in 1563.
The Jesuit Peter Canisius’s 1577 treatise De Maria virgine incomparabili argued for upholding Mary’s exalted nature and her Immaculate Conception, and subsequent theologians promulgated similar defenses (see Spear 1997). The first church in Rome dedicated to the Immaculate Conception was built by the Capuchin order in 1622 (Santa Maria della Concezione, with Barberini family sponsorship, where Reni would paint his Saint Michael, see above). Pope Urban VIII laid the cornerstone for the church in 1626, the year before Reni’s altarpiece.
The standardized imagery of a "woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (Revelation 12:1) was only developed in the early seventeenth century (for comparison, see Giorgio Vasari’s 1540 Immaculate Conception in Ss. Apostoli, Florence, which presents a crowded and theologically explicit interpretation). Guido Reni helped pioneer the new iconography in works like The Met’s altarpiece (for the iconography of the Immaculate Conception, see Mirella Levi D’Ancona, The Iconography of the Immaculate Conception in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, 1957.)
A prototype for Reni’s Marian altarpieces was his early master Denys Calvaert’s Assumption of about 1571 (now in the Bologna Pinacoteca). Other important likely precedents for Reni were altarpieces by Scipione Pulzone (ca. 1584, Chiesa dei Cappuccini, Ronciglione) and Ludovico Carracci (the ca. 1590 Madonna degli Scalzi in the Bologna Pinacoteca).
There are drawings related to The Met’s Immaculate Conception in the Uffizi (inv. no. 1577) and the Royal Library, Windsor Castle (no. 3299). Both are studies for the Virgin’s head (see Additional Images, figs. 1–2).
Related Paintings and Influence: In addition to his altarpiece for the Spanish ambassador, Reni painted a second Immaculate Conception, now in the church of San Biagio in Forlì. (The work, much damaged, has been alternately dated to 1623 or 1628–29; see Hibbard 1969 and Pepper 1984, respectively.) In the Forlì work, the Virgin assumes a more robust pose, the two flanking angels are absent, and there is less space between her and the mandorla of clouds and angels. There is the question of whether Reni, in the 1627 painting, specifically modified his style to suit the presumed conservative taste prevalent in Spain.
Reni also painted a similar Assumption of the Virgin, completed by May 1627, for the parish church in Castelfranco Emilia; the Virgin, lacking the diadem of stars, is perched on clouds, her arms outstretched. Reni repeated the Assumption motif throughout the 1630s (see the 1637 canvas in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons, and the ca. 1638–39 work in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich).
The Met’s painting has been seen as an influence on the Bolognese sculptor Alessandro Algardi’s Mary Magdalen, executed around 1628 for the church of San Silvestro al Quirinale (Hibbard 1969). Hibbard traces a lineage from Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Saint Bibiana sculpture (ca. 1624–26) to Reni’s Immaculate Conception (1627) to the Algardi (1628).
Owing to its likely presence in Seville Cathedral (see Provenance), the work had an outsized impact on Spanish painting, with the Immaculate Conception theme taken up by artists like Zurbarán, Murillo, Ribera, and Velázquez.
Provenance: Though the work is said to have come from Seville Cathedral, and influenced a generation of Spanish artists, there are no seventeenth-century sources that confirm its presence there. Instead, the information comes from nineteenth-century sources (see Bridgewater House 1856), and the presence in the Cathedral of a copy (for the copy, see Angulo Íñiguez 1983, fig. 14).
The work left Spain for Paris at some point in the early nineteenth century, perhaps through the intervention of General Sebastiani. Following a succession of sales, the work appears in the collection of the Earls of Ellesmere at Bridgewater House by 1836, where it remained until 1946. The work was damaged by a fire caused by the bombing of Bridgewater House on May 11, 1941; the fire caused the paint to blister (see Additional Images, fig. 3). Although no paint losses resulted, the blistering has left an alligator-like texture on parts of the painting.
[Jeffrey Fraiman 2017]
commissioned for María, Infanta of Spain, by the Spanish ambassador to Rome, in 1627; Seville cathedral; Horace François Bastien Sebastiani de la Porta, comte Sebastiani, later Maréchal (imported to Paris; sold to Delahante); Alexis Delahante, London (sold to Taylor); George Watson Taylor, Cavendish Square, London, and Erlestoke Mansion, Wiltshire (by 1818–32; his sale, Christie's, London, June 13, 1823, no. 65, as "Assumption of the Virgin," withdrawn; his sale, George Robins, Erlestoke, July 25, 1832, no. 158, for £1,102.12 to Smith); [Smith, London, from 1832]; Lord Francis Egerton, later 1st Earl of Ellesmere, Bridgewater House, London (by 1836–d. 1857; cats., 1851, 1856, no. 117); the Earls of Ellesmere, Bridgewater House (1857–1944; cats., 1897, 1907, no. 117); John Sutherland Egerton, 5th Earl of Ellesmere, Bridgewater House (1944–46; his sale, Christie's, London, October 18, 1946, no. 135, as "The Assumption," for £6.6 to Reder); David Reder, London (from 1946); [Oscar Klein, New York, 1956–58]; [Acquavella, New York, 1958–59; sold to MMA]
London. British Institution. 1818, no. 41 (as "Assumption of the Virgin," lent by G. W. Taylor).
London. British Institution. May 1836, no. 1 (as "Assumption of the Virgin," by Murillo [changed to Guido], lent by Lord Francis Egerton).
Manchester. Art Treasures Palace. "Art Treasures of the United Kingdom," May 5–October 17, 1857, no. 881 (as "Assumption of the Virgin," lent by the Earl of Ellesmere).
Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna. "Guido Reni, 1575–1642," September 5–November 10, 1988, no. 50.
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. "Guido Reni und Europa: Ruhm und Nachruhm," December 2, 1988–February 26, 1989, no. A20.
Guido Reni. Letter to Antonio Galeazzo Fibbia. August 19, 1627 [published in Giovanni Bottari and Stefano Ticozzi, eds. "Raccolta di lettere sulla pittura, scultura ed architettura," 8 vols., Milan, 1822–25, vol. 1, 1822, pp. 296–97], writes that he has accepted the commission for a large painting [this work] from the ambassador of Spain.
Document. December 31, 1627 [Archivio Barberini, Biblioteca Vaticana; published in Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, "Seventeenth-Century Barberini Documents and Inventories of Art," New York, 1975, p. 30, no. 255], records arrangements made by the Barberini to send porters to Bologna to bring the painting back to Rome.
Document. December 1627 [Archivio Barberini, Biblioteca Vaticana; published in Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, "Seventeenth-Century Barberini Documents and Inventories of Art," New York, 1975, p. 30, no. 256].
Document. January 1, 1628 [Archivio Barberini, Biblioteca Vaticana; published in Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, "Seventeenth-Century Barberini Documents and Inventories of Art," New York, 1975, p. 30, no. 258].
Document. April 1629 [Archivio Barberini, Biblioteca Vaticana; published in Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, "Seventeenth-Century Barberini Documents and Inventories of Art," New York, 1975, p. 30, no. 260], records the payment to Carlo Ciliani for customs tax on this painting.
Gio[vanni]. Pietro Bellori. Le vite de' pittori, scultori e architetti moderni. Rome, 1672, p. 23v, notes that the Spanish ambassador had commissioned for the Infanta a painting of the Immaculate Conception by Reni; relates that the ambassador's constant visits and impatience for the work to be completed resulted in Reni sending the picture to Bologna, from where it was returned to Rome only after the Pope's intervention.
Carlo Cesare Malvasia. Felsina pittrice: vite de' pittori bolognesi. Bologna, 1678, vol. 2, p. 37 [1841 ed., Bologna, ed. Giampietro Zanotti, vol. 2, p. 27; 1971 ed., Bologna, ed. Marcella Brascaglia, pp. 368–69].
[Jean Baptiste Pierre] LeBrun. Recueil de gravures au trait, à l'eau forte, et ombrées, d'après un choix de tableaux de toutes les écoles, recueillis dans un voyage fait en Espagne, au Midi de la France et en Italie, dans les années 1807 et 1808. Paris, 1809.
A Catalogue of the Very Distinguished Collection of Italian, French, Flemish, Dutch, and English Pictures, of the Finest Class, of George Watson Taylor, Esq. Christie's, London. June 13–14, 1823, p. 8, no. 65, states that it comes from the Seville cathedral.
W[illiam]. 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, vol. 2, p. 193, no. 15, lists it among works imported to England by Delahante; states that it was originally in Spain, that it came from the collection of General Sebastiani, and that Delahante sold it to Taylor.
Mrs. Jameson. Companion to the Most Celebrated Private Galleries of Art in London. London, 1844, p. 108, no. 53, as in the Bridgewater Gallery; points out that although it is known as the Assumption of the Virgin, the actual subject is the Immaculate Conception; states that it was bought by Lord F. Egerton, and that "it was formerly in the collection of the Prince of Peace, and obtained from Spain by the Chevalier Bourke, who sold it to Mr. Watson Taylor".
Catalogue of the Bridgewater Collection of Pictures, Belonging to the Earl of Ellesmere, at Bridgewater House, Cleveland Square, St. James's. 3rd ed. [London], 1851, pp. 18–19, no. 117, as "The Assumption, or the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, attended by Angels"; marked as added to the collection by the Earl of Ellesmere.
George Stanley, ed. A Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers.. By Michael Bryan. new ed. London, 1853, p. 629, calls it "the perfection of the ideal in painting".
Catalogue of the Bridgewater Collection of Pictures, Belonging to the Earl of Ellesmere, at Bridgewater House, Cleveland Square, St. James's. 5th ed. [London], 1856, pp. 20–21, no. 117, as "The Assumption, or the Immaculate Conception"; states that it came from the Seville cathedral, was imported to France by Sebastiani, who sold it to Delahante, who sold it to Taylor, at whose sale in 1832 it was bought by Smith; notes that it has recently been engraved by W. H. Watt.
W. Burger [Théophile Thoré]. Trésors d'art exposés à Manchester en 1857. Paris, 1857, p. 102 [reprinted as "Trésors d'art en Angleterre," Brussels, 1860, with same pagination].
G[eorge]. S[charf]. A Handbook to the Paintings by Ancient Masters in the Art Treasures Exhibition. London, 1857, p. 70, calls it "The Virgin in Glory" and "a weak specimen of the master at his weakest period".
Mrs. Jameson. Legends of the Madonna. London, 1864, pp. 48, 327, lists it with three other paintings of the Immaculate Conception ascribed to Reni as among the earliest accredited pictures of the subject; states that it was painted for the Infanta of Spain and places it chronologically before the picture at Forlì [see Notes].
Charles Blanc and Henri Delaborde. Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles: École bolonaise. Paris, 1877, p. 16.
George Redford. Art Sales. London, 1888, vol. 2, p. 235, records the purchase price at the 1832 sale as £1,102.12.
Catalogue of the Bridgewater and Ellesmere Collections of Pictures at Bridgewater House, Cleveland Square, St. James's, London. [London?], 1897, p. 21, no. 117.
Mrs. Steuart Erskine. "The Bridgewater and Ellesmere Collections in Bridgewater House." Connoisseur 6 (May 1903), p. 10, calls it "most painfully coloured" and "said to have been used as a banner in processions".
Catalogue of the Bridgewater and Ellesmere Collections of Pictures and Statuary at Bridgewater House, Cleveland Square, St. James's, London. [London], 1907, p. 23, no. 117.
Vincenzo Costantini. Guido Reni. Milan, 1928, p. 181, mentions a "Beata Vergine" commissioned by the Spanish ambassador.
Walter Friedlaender. "Der antimanieristische Stil um 1590 und sein Verhältnis zum Übersinnlichen." Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg (1928–29), p. 222 n. 2, mentions it as having been made for the Spanish Infanta, and notes that it probably had a direct influence on Spanish painting.
Otto Kurz. "Guido Reni." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 11 (1937), p. 218, identifies this picture, then in Bridgewater House, as the work Reni painted for the Spanish Infanta.
Giuseppe Fiocco. "Una pala ritrovata di Guido Reni." Arte antica e moderna no. 4 (October–December 1958), pp. 388–89, pl. 151 and ill. opp. p. 388 (color), identifies it with the picture described by Malvasia in 1678 [see Ref.], commissioned by the Spanish ambassador; dates it about 1625, before the Forlì painting.
"Bibliografía." Archivo español de arte 32 (October–December 1959), p. 350, pl. 1, briefly reviews Ref. Fiocco 1958.
Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez. Pintura italiana del s. XVII en España. PhD diss., Universidad de Madrid. Madrid, 1965, pp. 169, 175.
D. Stephen Pepper. "Guido Reni's Early Drawing Style." Master Drawings 6 (Winter 1968), p. 366.
D. Stephen Pepper. "A Rediscovered Painting by Guido Reni." Apollo 90 (September 1969), pp. 208, 210–11, 213 nn. 4, 10, fig. 3, relates the light palette to that used in Charity (MMA, 1974.348), which he dates slightly later.
Howard Hibbard. "Guido Reni's Painting of the Immaculate Conception." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 28 (Summer 1969), pp. 18–32, ill., dates it 1627; discusses the iconography of the Immaculate Conception, comparing the MMA painting with others of the same subject; dates the version in Forlì about 1623 and states that the related Assumption in Castelfranco Emilia was completed in 1627; suggests that the MMA picture may have been influenced by Bernini's Saint Bibiana (Santa Bibiana, Rome) of 1624–26 and also notes the influence of the MMA work on Algardi's stucco Mary Magdalen (San Silvestro al Quirinale, Rome) of about 1628.
D. Stephen Pepper. "Guido Reni's Early Style: His Activity in Bologna, 1595–1601." Burlington Magazine 111 (August 1969), p. 475 n. 20.
Edi Baccheschi inL'opera completa di Guido Reni. Milan, 1971, p. 104, no. 135, ill.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 173, 306, 609.
Frank Herrmann. The English as Collectors: A Documentary Chrestomathy. New York, 1972, fig. 50, reproduces a photograph showing it hanging in the picture gallery at Bridgewater House.
D. Stephen Pepper. "Guido Reni's 'Il Diamante': A New Masterpiece for Toledo." Burlington Magazine 115 (October 1973), p. 633.
A. Pigler. Barockthemen: Eine Auswahl von Verzeichnissen zur Ikonographie des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts. 2nd ed. [first ed. 1956]. Budapest, 1974, vol. 1, p. 508.
Evelina Borea, ed. Le vite de' pittori, scultori e architetti moderni.. By Giovanni Pietro Bellori. Turin, 1976, p. 526 n. 1.
Diego Angulo Íñiguez. "Varias pinturas sevillanas: Asunción de Tristán." Archivo español de arte 56 (April–June 1983), pp. 161, 163, fig. 13, attributes an Immaculate Conception (fig. 10) on the art market in London to Zurbarán and comments on its similarity to the MMA picture; reproduces the copy (fig. 14) of the MMA painting now hanging in the Seville cathedral.
D. Stephen Pepper. Guido Reni: A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text. New York, 1984, pp. 31, 256–57, 261, no. 114, pl. 139, states mistakenly that it is said to have come from the Toledo cathedral; dates the Castelfranco Emilia Assumption slightly earlier (1626–27) and the Forlì Immaculate Conception slightly later (1628–29).
Ursula Schlegel. "Bernini und Guido Reni." Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen 27 (1985), p. 140.
Brigitte Kühn. "Guido Renis Vorzeichnung für die Immaculata Conceptio in Forlì." Römische historische Mitteilungen 27 (1985), p. 434.
Wolfgang Prohaska inGuido Reni und Europa: Ruhm und Nachruhm. Ed. Sybille Ebert-Schifferer, Andrea Emiliani, and Erich Schleier. Exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Frankfurt, 1988, p. 665, believes it influenced Ribera's painting of the same subject of 1637 (Graf Harrach'sche family collection, Rohrau).
Angelo Mazza et al. inGuido Reni, 1575–1642. Exh. cat., Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna. Bologna, 1988, pp. LXXXVI, 122–23, 202, no. 50, ill. [English ed., Los Angeles, 1988, pp. 254–55, 259 n. 10, pp. 264–66, no. 41, ill.].
Sybille Ebert-Schifferer et al. inGuido Reni und Europa: Ruhm und Nachruhm. Exh. cat., Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt. Frankfurt, 1988, pp. 17–18, 28, 30, 175–78, 197, 200, 702, 718, no. A20, ill. (color).
Michel Feuillet. "Contribution à l'histoire de l'Assomption des Philippins de Pérouse de Guido Reni: Le retour à la lumière d'un chef-d'oeuvre du musée des Beaux-Arts." Bulletin des musées et monuments lyonnais no. 2 (1988), p. 14, fig. 8.
Robert B. Simon with Frank Dabell inImportant Old Master Paintings: Devotion and Delight. Exh. cat., Piero Corsini, Inc. New York, Fall 1989, p. 80, fig. 3 (detail).
Richard E. Spear. "Re-viewing the 'Divine' Guido." Burlington Magazine 131 (May 1989), p. 372, under no. 46.
Claudio Strinati inOpus Sacrum. Ed. Józef Grabski. Exh. cat., Royal Castle, Warsaw. Vienna, 1990, pp. 228–29, figs. 3, 5 (overall and detail).
Alfonso E. Pérez Sánchez inJusepe de Ribera, 1591–1652. Exh. cat., Castel Sant'Elmo et al. Naples, 1992, p. 284, states that it seems to have influenced Ribera's painting of the same subject dated 1635 (Chiesa del Convento delle Agustinas Recoletas di Monterrey, Salamanca).
Wolfgang Prohaska. "I rapporti di Ribera con la pittura fiamminga in area mediterranea: Il caso Van Dyck." Scritti in memoria di Raffaello Causa: Saggi e documenti per la storia dell'arte, 1994–1995. Naples, 1996, p. 214.
Richard E. Spear inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 26, New York, 1996, p. 197, fig. 2.
Richard E. Spear. The "Divine" Guido: Religion, Sex, Money and Art in the World of Guido Reni. New Haven, 1997, pp. 18, 21, 111, 140–42, 293, 320, 355 nn. 60, 62, p. 357 n. 84, colorpls. 53–55 (overall and details).
Anthony Colantuono. Guido Reni's "Abduction of Helen": The Politics and Rhetoric of Painting in Seventeenth-Century Europe. Cambridge, 1997, pp. 17–20, 22, 54, 109, 248 n. 26, p. 249 n. 39, fig. 7, states that the Spanish ambassador, whom he identifies as Iñigo Vélez de Guevara y Tasís, 5th Count of Oñate, had commissioned a Rape of Helen (Musée du Louvre, Paris) from Reni as well as the Immaculate Conception, and that Reni's letter to Fibbia of August 19, 1627 [see Ref.] could refer to either work, although most probably to the latter picture; recounts in detail the altercations between Reni and Oñate; notes that the commission of the Immaculate Conception was related to the Spanish desire for the pope to define this doctrine as dogma.
Gérard-Julien Salvy. Guido Reni. Paris, 2001, p. 152, no. 121, ill.
Gabriele Wimböck. Guido Reni (1575–1642): Funktion und Wirkung des religiösen Bildes. PhD diss., Universität München. Regensburg, 2002, pp. 230–33, 244, 247, 251, 255, 258, colorpl. IX.
Nicola Spinosa. Ribera. Naples, 2003, p. 242 n. 121, ill. p. 204.
Enrique Valdivieso. "Presencia e influencia de las obras foráneas en el devenir del barroco pictórico sevillano." El arte foráneo en España: Presencia e influencia. Ed. Miguel Cabañas Bravo. Madrid, 2005, pp. 202–3, ill.
Elizabeth A. Pergam. "From Manchester to Manhattan: The Transatlantic Art Trade After 1857." Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 87, no. 2 (2005), pp. 86, 91.
Valentina Maderna inBrera mai vista, una mistica visione: l'"Immacolata Concezione" di Bernardo Cavallino. Exh. cat., Pinacoteca di Brera. Milan, 2008, p. 20, agrees with Pérez Sánchez [see Ref. 1992] that this work influenced Ribera's painting of the same subject in Salamanca.
Keith Christiansen inPhilippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977–2008. New York, 2009, p. 36.
Viviana Farina. Al sole e all'ombra di Ribera: questioni di pittura e disegno a Napoli nella prima metà del Seicento. Vol. 1, Castellammare di Stabia, 2014, pp. 91, 228 n. 210, fig. 105 (color).
Jesse M. Locker. Artemisia Gentileschi: The Language of Painting. New Haven, 2015, p. 36, fig. 1.19 (color).
Keith Christiansen. "La création tardive d'une collection de peintures baroques au Metropolitan Museum of Art / Creating a Baroque Collection at the Metropolitan Late in the Game." Aux origines d'un goût: la peinture baroque aux États-Unis / Creating the Taste for Baroque Painting in America. Paris, 2015, pp. 64, 70, fig. 2 (color, gallery installation).
Andrea Bayer. "Better Late than Never: Collecting Baroque Painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Buying Baroque: Italian Seventeenth-Century Paintings Come to America. Ed. Edgar Peters Bowron. University Park, Pa., 2017, pp. 131, 152 n. 11.
Old Masters. Christie's, New York. October 31, 2017, unpaginated, under no. 26.
An engraving of the Virgin's head and hands is in the MMA Print Department (Charles Le Blanc, Manuel de l'amateur d'estampes, Paris, 1854–88, vol. 3, p. 220, no. 16).
Artist: Design may be derived from a painting by Guido Reni (Italian, Bologna 1575–1642 Bologna) Date: mid-18th centuryMedium: Silk, wool (28-29 warps per inch, 10-11 per cm.)Accession: 88.3.107On view in:Not on view
Artist: Guido Reni (Italian, Bologna 1575–1642 Bologna) (the study of Holofernes only) Date: 1625–40Medium: Black chalk on brownish paper that may have been originally blue (Holofernes); black chalk on blue paper (female figure)Accession: 62.123.1On view in:Not on view