Bringing together more than 130 works, this survey at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt (23 November–5 March 2023) is the first to include the baroque artist’s drawings, etchings and paintings for nearly three decades. Above all, the show celebrates his divine gift for religious imagery – which, although the artist fell into critical obscurity in the 19th century, left a lasting influence on the Western painting tradition. The exhibition also shines a light on his troubled personality (including a hopeless gambling addiction). Studies of religious subjects include his fine sketch, a Head Study for Christ (1620), while among the exhibitions particular highlights are a number of Reni’s few surviving early works. Taking inspiration from an altarpiece by Annibale and Agostino Carracci, Reni’s Assumption of the Virgin (c. 1598–99) reveals how the artist diverged from the high drama of the Carraccis’ example by depicting the ascension of Mary in a gentler light, accompanied by musical instruments. At the heart of the exhibition, the recently restored work Christ at the Column (c. 1604) reveals Reni’s debt to Caravaggio, whose work he studied in preparation for this painting. Yet Reni’s depiction of Christ at the whipping post again shows how he pared back Caravaggio’s action-packed example to take an unusually intimate view, depicting Christ alone against a plain, black background. Find out more on the Städel Museum’s website.
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