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Guido Cagnacci

 (1601 - 1663)
Guido Cagnacci was active/lived in Italy.  Guido Cagnacci is known for eroticized religious and mythology painting, chiaroscuro.

Guido Cagnacci

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Guido Cagnacci
Through Jan. 22. Frick Collection, 1 East 70th Street, Manhattan; 212-288-0700,

The 17th-century Italian painter Guido Cagnacci isn’t well known in this country, although he has become something of a cult figure to scholars of art made in his region, Romagna. In his time, he achieved modest fame for his skirting of marital laws (he tried to elope with a wealthy widow, and was said to be living in sin with young women who were disguised as male apprentices) and for his eroticized religious and mythological scenes, in which the exposed female torso figured prominently. (This genre is typified by his variations on the theme of a dying Cleopatra, one of which is at the Italian Cultural Institute through Jan. 19, with another in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum and currently on view.)

Late in his career, however, he stepped up his game with a large, ambitious multi-figure scene, the Repentant Magdalene, thought to be a commission for Emperor Leopold I of Vienna. Now installed at the Frick (on a loan from the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, Calif.), it shows the free-spirited Cagnacci more than capable of compositional rigor and emotional complexity.

Three pairs of figures define the painting. In the foreground, the Magdalene has shed her fancy clothes and jewelry and hurled herself onto the marble floor; her sister, Martha, is tending to her. Behind them, two distressed servants are fleeing the awkward scene; so is a devil, ushered out the window by an angel with a spear.

The juxtaposition in a shallow space of bodies bound by gravity and others that aren’t — like those of the prostrate Magdalene and the floating devil — is productively unsettling. So, perhaps less productively, is the feeling that Cagnacci can’t help lingering on the Magdalene’s supple form or her castoff luxuries; her loosely draped hips, unspooling strings of pearls and bejeweled shoes, snaking along the painting’s bottom edge, nearly upstage the narrative of repentance.

Reading the accompanying texts (including a new book on Cagnacci by the Frick’s chief curator, Xavier F. Salomon), it becomes clear that the artist had a lot to prove: He had been told that he couldn’t paint convincing spaces or full-length figures, and critics had savaged his treatment of feet in particular. Repentant Magdalene looks, at times, like a point-by-point rebuttal of such comments. Nonetheless, it’s a vigorous, full-throated and ultimately endearing defense.

By Karen Rosenberg

"What to See in New York City Galleries This Week: Cagnacci's 'Repentant Magdalene-Art & Design Section," The New York Times, January 5, 2017

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Guido Cagnacci
Guido Cagnacci was an Italian painter of the Baroque period, who produced many works characterized by their use of chiaroscuro and their sensual subjects. He was influenced by the masters of the Bolognese School.

Cagnacci was born in Santarcangelo di Romagna, near Rimini. He worked in Rimini from 1627 to 1642. After that, he moved to work in Forlì, where he would have been able to observe the paintings of Melozzo.

Prior to living in Forlì he had been in Rome, where he had come in contact with Guercino, Guido Reni and Simon Vouet. He may have had an apprenticeship with the elderly Ludovico Carracci in Bologna. His initial output includes many devotional subjects.

But moving to Venice under the name of Guico Baldo Canlassi da Bologna, he renewed a friendship with Nicolas Regnier, and dedicated himself to private salon paintings, often depicting sensuous naked women from thigh upwards, including Lucretia, Cleopatra, and Mary Magdalene.

This allies him to a strand of courtly painting, epitomized in Florence by Francesco Furini, Simone Pignoni and others. In 1650, he moved to Venice. In 1658, he traveled to Vienna, where he remained under patronage of the Emperor Leopold I.

His life was often tempestuous, as can be characterized by the 1628 episode of a failed elopement with an aristocratic widow. Some contemporaries describe him as eccentric, unreliable and of doubtful morality. He is said to have enjoyed the company of cross-dressing models. He died in Vienna in 1663.

Cagnacci's work was, in one view, "entirely unappreciated by his contemporaries," but reassessed by modern critics; his painting is "warm with the heightened tones of grazing light, rich in the play of shadows and colors."

Selected works
Procession of the Holy Sacrament (Salucedio)
Christ with Saints Joseph and Eligius (1635)
Madonna with saints Andre Corsini Teresa and Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi (1640, Sant'Arcangelo)
Frescoes in Cappella della Madonna del Fuoco (Duomo, Forlì)
Allegory of spheral Astrology (Pinacoteca civica, Forlì)
Glory of Saints Valerian and Mercurial (Faenza)
Leopold I portrait (Vienna)
Calling of Saint Matthew (Museo della Città - Rimini)
Allegorical Naked Figure (private)
The Death of Cleopatra (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan)
Death of Lucretia
Scolding of Mary Magdalene (Norton Simon Museum)

"Guido Cagnacci," Wikipedia, Jan. 2017

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About  Guido Cagnacci

Born:  1601 - Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy
Died:   1663 - Vienna, Austria
Known for:  eroticized religious and mythology painting, chiaroscuro