St. Roch in prison

Guido Reni

Calvenzano, 1575 – Bologna, 1642

Oil on canvas, 369 x 215cm

Inv. 448

The Galleria Estense, Modena

This work was completed between 1617 and 1618 for the Chiesa di San Rocco in Carpi, province of Modena. It was added to the ducal collection in 1751, appropriated by the French at the turn of the century and returned in 1815. 

It was produced during the most prolific period of the artist’s career in which he also painted the so-called Labours of Hercules (now in the Louvre Museum, Paris) for the Duke of Mantua. Earning well-deserved fame following his Roman ventures, Reni returned to Bologna to a leading role in the Bolognese art of his time and, incidentally, in the Classicist tradition of times to come. The Saint’s figure embodies the artist’s Christian-inspired vein of naturalism: solemn and majestic he stands out in the perfectly balanced space. Yet each element of colour and composition, calculated confidently and with great care, is ultimately elevated by the cold light to an abstract world of musical grace.