(Calvenzano, 1575 – Bologna 1642)


The Penitent Magdalene


Oil on copper

26 ¾ x 21 1/6 inches

(68.5 x 56 cm)


Duke Anton Maria Salviati (died 1704); by descent to his daughter:

Caterina Zeffirina Salviati, wife of Fabrizio Colonna

Colonna Collection where engraved in 1776 by J. Kaupetz and P. Fontana

Private Collection, United Kingdom; by whom sold, Christie’s, London, July 4, 1997, lot 356 (as Guido Reni); where acquired by

Private Collection, New York, 1997-2016



“Sacra e profana”: les aspects de la femme à travers la peinture italienne du XVe au XVIIIe siècle. Paris, Galerie Virginie Pitchal,  January 1999, as Guido Reni



Domenico Cunego, Inscribed at bottom with title and “Guido Reni pinxit Dom Cunego sculp. Romae 1776.” and “Ex tabula in Aedibus Colonna Roma Preso Domenico Cunego.”



D. Stephen Pepper, Guido Reni: A Complete Catalogue of his Works with an Introductory Text. New York 1984, p. 262, s.v. cat. no, 126, as a copy.

D. Stephen Pepper, “Guido Reni's Practice of Repeating Compositions,” Artibus Et Historiae 20, no. 39 (1999), pp. 36-37, fig. 13, as by Guido Reni

The Penitent Magdalene was a favorite subject of Guido Reni’s, but his many treatments of the theme, combined with their frequent replication by followers and copyists, makes tracing a painting’s provenance through inventories and sale records problematic.  Nonetheless the history of the present work can be followed with some certainty as its size and copper support help to distinguish the work from other paintings by or after the master.

The painting first appears in the 1704 inventory of the recently deceased Duke Anton Maria Salviati, where it is listed as follows:

[110] Altro quadro alto palmi trè ¼ largo palmi due e mezzo, rappresantante una Madalena, con Cornice dorata, et intagliata da Guido.[1]

The given dimensions of 3 ¼ x 2 ½ palmi correspond to 73.1 x 56 cm.

The painting then passed to the Duke’s daughter, Caterina Zefferina Salviati, who married Prince Fabrizio II Colonna.  It remained in the Colonna Collection in Rome, being engraved by Domenico Cunego in 1776 and later inventoried in 1783, as “Un quadro di 3. Per alto= La Maddalena=Opera insigne di Guido Reni Bolognese.” In “secondo facciata verso l’anticamera.”[2]

A second version of the composition, also on copper but 5 cm wider than the present work, was considered autograph by Pepper, and is in the Musée National de Versailles (deposit, Louvre, Inv. No. 529). It is listed in Charles Le Brun’s inventory of 1683 (No. 75) and generally dated to the mid-1620’s. In contrast Pepper considered our painting typical of Reni’s “second manner.”Here the figure is not only more elongated and lithe, but the color key is brighter. He compared the technique and palette of this Magdalene to the well-known Charity in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both Dr. Pepper and Sir Denis Mahon concurred in dating the present painting to the 1630’s

[1] Philippe Costamagna, “La collection des peintures de une famille Florentine établie à Rome: L’inventaire après décès du Duc Anton Maria Salviati dressé en 1704,” Nuovi Studi, Vol. VIII (2000), p. 193, no. 110, p. 223n.201.  Previously it had been suggested that the present painting was one mentioned by Malvasia (Felsina Pittrice.Bologna 1678, II, p. 31) in the collection of Cardinal Girolamo Boncompagni and later in the Zambeccari collection. That painting, inventoried in Boncompagni’s 1684 inventory, is mentioned in the eighteenth century by Oretti as still being in the Zambeccari collection, and thus cannot be the painting in Anton Maria Salviati’s 1704 inventory.  Cf. Raffaella Morselli, Documents for the History of Collecting: Italian Inventories 3, Collezioni e quadrerie nella Bologna del Seicento. Inventari 1640-1707 (Los Angeles: Getty 1998), pp.106. f.45, nos. 1-2.  and Marcello Oretti ei il Patrimonio artistico private Bolognese, ed Emilia Calbi and Daniela Scaglietti Keleschian (Bologna 1984), p. 161, [a]57/1. 


[2] Catalogo dei quadri, e pitture esistenti nel palazzo dell' eccellentissima casa Colonna in Roma. Rome 1783, p. 139, no. 1089