Guido Reni studied at the influential academy founded by the Caracci in Bologna, a school that expounded a style uniting the classicizing characteristics of the great masters of the preceding generation, among them Raphael, Tintoretto, Titian, and Correggio. Like them, Reni drew on history, mythology, and religion for subjects for his narrative paintings, the kind most prestigious and in demand during his time. Nevertheless he completed several portrait commissions; his depiction of Cardinal Roberto Ubaldino is one of the most vivid formal portraits of the seventeenth century. It may show the influence of van Dyke's celebrated portrait style. The cardinal's pose is traditional, established by Raphael's and Titian's earlier portraits of popes. In its clear and carefully balanced composition the work emulates paintings by Raphael, Reni's idol, yet the cardinal is not idealized. Reni's desire for classical idealization is balanced by a seventeenth-century literalness that attempted a faithful transcription of the cardinal's physical and psychological presence. A cousin of Pope Leo XI and an envoy of Pope Paul V, Cardinal Ubaldino, a subtle and astute diplomat, was papal nuncio to Paris in the early 1620s. He may have commissioned this portrait for the Jubilee of 1625. The cardinal is portrayed before a theatrical swag of drapery; a grand arcade recedes into the distance, providing a view of a formal garden and the park beyond. The setting, accessories, and brilliant play of reds and scarlets combined with the superb rendering of delicate lace contribute to an image of the cardinal as a man of refinement and power.More...
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