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Works from Bruno Mantura collection

Tuesday 23 March 2021 • Rome


Enrico Fanfani

(Firenze 1824 - 1897)

Guido Reni portrays Beatrice Cenci in prison, About 1855-60


€ 2.500 - 3.500

Price realized

€ 3.200

The price includes buyer's premium


oil on canvas laid on wood
56.5 x 71.5 cm
signed lower right: E. Fanfani Dipinse

Student of the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, Enrico Fanfani is one of the exponents of that history painting, which matured in The cultural climate of Italian romanticism had evolved between purism and naturalism. Often present at the Florentine Promoters, he dealt with themes from the biblical and literary repertoire such as Torquato Tasso at the convent of Sant'Onofrio and Rebecca al pozzo (both 1856) and Blind Milton who dictates Paradise Lost to his daughters (1857, Florence, Palazzo Pitti Modern Art Gallery). In the context of the romantic Pantheon there were illustrious characters of letters, arts and sciences, but also heroines with tragic and dark destinies. The result of the happy union between the two themes is the painting Guido Reni paints the portrait of Beatrice Cenci in the dark cell where the unhappy person awaits the moment to go to the gallows. Mentioned by the sources as a courageous rebel against a violent and prevaricating father, the young woman, accused of patricide and executed just twenty-two on 11 September 1599, is assimilated by romantic writers to tyrannicides starting from the tragedy The Cenci (1819), inspired by Shelley from the famous portrait (Rome, Barberini Corsini National Galleries) attributed to Guido Reni, This first literary text had generated numerous works, including in 1844 the tragedy of the same name by Giovan Battista Niccolini and in 1854 the novel by Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi, who sanctioned the definitive popularity of the subject. The canvas  in question can be dated to around the mid-fifties, a period in which the artist also made The Last Confession of Beatrice Cenci, presented to the Florentine Promoter of 1857, and Beatrice Cenci after the torture, exhibited to that of 1861. These successful paintings are replicated in different versions, sometimes with variations, as evidenced by the work of the same subject kept in a Madrid private collection. It should also be emphasized that the very theme of Beatrice Cenci portrayed by Guido Reni had particularly struck contemporary artists to the point of inducing Achille Leonardi, a prolific painter of genre themes, to replicate this subject and the same portrait attributed to Guido Reni numerous times [2] , although Guerrazzi had stated in his novel that the portrait was painted by the Bolognese painter only a year after the death of the unfortunate girl on the basis of a drawing. The dictates of romantic historicism require Fanfani to carefully research the choice of clothes and furnishings in order to make the setting credible. In a cell of the Savella Court prison Beatrice Cenci sits on a modest bed wearing a white robe and in her hands a book of prayers and a rosary to indicate the gradual detachment from earthly things in anticipation of the fateful hour. Guido Reni, in sumptuous Renaissance robes, paints the portrait with a white turban. A gentleman behind her admires the grace of the model reflected in the famous painting. The two figures of soldiers entering the cell constitute a sharp counterpoint to the composure of the three bystanders, aware of the solemnity of the moment. The calm resignation, the acceptance of one's destiny through faith, the virginal whiteness of her clothes give Beatrice Cenci the role of the perfect romantic heroine: "Thinking this way I gave me to search for the past times: the accusations and the defenses were off; I compared stories, writings and memories; listen to the distant tradition. Tradition, that when the Mighty write the story of innocence betrayed with blood, which they drew from their veins, preserves the truth with the tears of the people, and creeps into the hearts of later nephews as a lament. I uncovered the ancient burials, and interrogated the ashes. […] I knew the reason for the offense: and what persuaded the crime to the vulgar of men, used to suppose it there where the ax hits, convinced me of a sacrifice that is unique in the world. Then Beatrice appeared to me beautiful in misfortune "[ 3 ].

Teresa Sacchi Lodispoto

[1] Romanticismo storico, catalog of the exhibition edited by S. Pinto, Palazzo Pitti, Florence 1973, p. 93.

[2] Beatrice Cenci. La storia il mito, catalog of the exhibition curated by M. Bevilacqua, E. Mori, Rome, Marco Besso Foundation 4 November - 20 December 1999, p. 155 n. 12.

[ 3 ] F. Guerrazzi, Beatrice Cenci , Pisa, Guerrazzi, 1854, p. 6.

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