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Title The Union of Design and Colour
Collection Victoria and Albert Museum
Artist After Reni, Guido (Italian painter and draftsman, 1575-1642)
Date Earliest about 1700
Date Latest about 1800

This is a copy with variations of a composition by Reni, probably executed in Bologna during the 1620s. The pastel-like palette and loose brushwork suggest that it dates from the eighteenth century. The allegorical figures represent 'Design' as a young man on the left and 'Colour' as a young woman on the right.

Guido Reni was born in Bologna, where he became a pupil, along with Francesco Albani (1578-1660) and Domenichino (1581-1641), of the Flemish painter Denys Calveart (ca.1540-1619). Reni and his fellow pupils transferred in 1595 to the Carracci Academy, where he studied under Lodovico and Agostino Carracci. He left in 1598 and by late 1601 was in Rome, where he received important commissions and befriended the leading painter Giuseppe Cesari Cavalier d'Arpino (1568-1640). By 1614 Reni had returned to Bologna, where he remained, except for short visits to other cities, such as Ravenna and Naples.

Current Accession Number 312-1864
Subject figure; allegory (Painting; Design; Colour)
Measurements 21 x 24.2 cm
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Bequeathed by Mrs Duroure 1864.
Publications Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London, 1973, pp. 236-237, cat. no. 294.

This painting is a reduced copy after Guido Reni's Union of Design and Colour, executed around 1620-25, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (Inv. 534), of which there are versions in the collections of the Duke of Devonshire and of Sir W. Worsley, Bt. An engraving was made by S. Le Roy and Le Villain for the Galerie du Musée Napoleon, 1804, no. 179.

In this painted copy the soft modelling of the flesh and its pale greyish tone with subtle chiaroscuro reflects a technique Reni learned from Cavalier d'Arpino, but the pastel-like palette suggests an eighteenth-century date. The composition depicts two allegorical figures: 'Design', on the left, shown as a young man holding a pen against a sheet of paper, embraces 'Colour', on the right, shown as a young woman holding a palette and brushes. Reni's original composition is oval whereas this copy is rectangular; it also reduces the originally half-length figures and the colour of their clothes varies. In the original composition, 'Design' wears an ochre cloak, which is blue in the copy, and 'Colour' wears a lilac turban.which is grey in the copy.

The subject-matter alludes to Carracci's academic rules, expounded at the Accademia degli Incamminati from 1585, which emphasised the union of Colour and Design in order to avoid the eccentricity of Mannerism. Guido Reni and his Bolognese contemporaries stand as the greatest exponents of this artistic reform, commonly known as High Classicism, which remained a dominent force in European painting until the nineteenth century.

Rights Owner © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Author Ana Debenedetti



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