• NameGuido Cagnacci
  • Activity/Titlepainter, printmaker
  • Sexmale
  • Nationality/Datesborn 1601-01-19, , dead 1663
  • PlacesPlace of birth: Italien
    Place of death: Wien, Österrike
BiographyCagnacci, Guido
(b Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna, 19 Jan 1601; d Vienna, 1663).
Italian painter. He studied in Bologna in 1618–21 with an unidentified teacher, went to Rome in 1621 and finished an apprenticeship with Guercino in 1622. His earliest documented work, the Procession of the Holy Sacrament (1627; Saludecio, parish church), was to have been part of a larger decorative cycle that was never completed. At about the same time he painted an altarpiece depicting St Sixtus II (Saludecio, parish church). In 1628, at which time he was living in Rimini with his family, he attempted to elope with a widowed noblewoman, Teodora Stivivi, intending to force her family to consent to their marriage. The attempt was a failure but had long-lasting repercussions that affected the course of his career. He was obliged to leave Rimini for a while but returned in 1631 and painted some important works, characterized by a dramatic chiaroscuro that suggests direct contact with the followers of Caravaggio in Rome. Particularly noteworthy are his altarpieces of the Virgin and Child with Three Carmelite Saints (c. 1631; Rimini, S Giovanni Battista), the Calling of St Matthew (Rimini, Pin. Com. & Mus. Civ.) and Christ with SS Joseph and Eloi (1635; Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna, Collegiata).

Guido Cagnacci was born in Santarcangelo di
Romagna. Cagnacci’s father sent him to Bologna
to study painting and there he lived for four years
(1617–21) with the nobleman Girolamo Leoni.
A contemporary source, Francesco Scanelli,
names Ludovico Carracci as his teacher during
this time. Cagnacci took two trips to Rome in
1621–22. On the second of these he stayed with
Guercino, and while there became closely acquainted
with the work of Caravaggio and his
followers. Guido Reni’s work also came to play
a major part in Cagnacci’s artistic development,
though filtered through the lens of his Caravaggesque
influences. For the following two decades
he relocated to Rimini and painted devotional
works for churches, convents and confraternities
in the town and its environs. Cagnacci’s successive
commissions clearly show his differing influences:
from the Caravaggism of the Vision of the
Carmelite Saints in the church of San Giovanni
Battista, Rimini, to the influence of Reni in the
Penitent Magdalen painted for the Benedictine
church of Santa Maria Maddalena in Urbania in
1637, and to that of Correggio in the large canvases
of St Valerian and St Mercurialis painted
for the dome of the chapel of the Madonna del
Fuoco in Forlì Cathedral. After a sojourn in Forlì
in 1642–43, he was in contact with Florence and
Venice concerning possible commissions and
travelled to those cities in 1648–49.
In Venice, Cagnacci developed a successful synthesis
of an idiosyncratic naturalism with Venetian-
inspired colour and composition, evident in
paintings such as Natura Morta con fantesca che
batte due cani (Milan, Collezione Borromeo). He
stayed in Venice until 1658, when he was invited
by Emperor Leopold I to become court painter
in Vienna. In this last artistic period, Cagnacci
admirably merged his Caravaggesque influences
with an innate sensuality, in paintings such as the
Morte di Cleopatra (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches
Museum). Soon there was a great demand for
Cagnacci’s paintings, the most popular of them
being sensual half-length renderings of allegorical
figures such as Cleopatra and Lucretia. So
great was the popularity of these pictures that
there were soon many imitations and copies on
the market. Cagnacci himself employed copyists
in his studio.
Head of a woman in left profile, looking down
Reclining male nude see from the back
Christ Preaching
Study for the head of a woman
Descent of the Holy Ghost
David with the Head of Goliath