Guido Cagnacci (Italian, 1601-1663)

Allegory of Life, n.d.

Allegory of Life, n.d.

Oil on canvas 41 1/2 in. x 32 7/8 in. (105.41 cm x 83.5 cm)

Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection


  • Guido Cagnacci was born near Bologna and began his study of painting there in 1618, perhaps under Guido Reni. By 1622, he was in Rome working under the artist Guercino. In his early works Cagnacci followed Guercino’s example, drawing upon his contrasts of light and dark and gradually deepening his knowledge through contact with the works of Caravaggio and his followers in Rome. He returned to Rimini in the late 1620s, but his combative and adventurous personality—and involvement with a rich widow—forced his exile from the city.
    By the mid-1630s, Cagnacci’s religious paintings, including frescoes for a chapel in the town of Forlì, became lighter and brighter in color. Documented as living in Forlì in 1642, he was forced to leave the town in 1645, again because of his love of conflict. For a time he led a peripatetic existence in northern Italian towns. He eventually settled in Venice, where he opened a workshop and painted richly colored canvases until 1660, when he was called to Vienna as court painter to Emperor Leopold I.
    Around 1645, when his religious commissions waned because of his exile, Cagnacci turned to secular subjects that allowed him to display his skill in depicting the female nude. This trend continued throughout his time in Venice, where the sensuality of his works led to their acclaim. This painting is closely related to another version in an Italian private collection. Though it may be an early copy, Cagnacci is known to have made multiple versions of his works.

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