Poems in Praise of Guido Reni

RENI, GUIDO (1575-1642). Various authors

Lodi al signor Guido Reni.

Bologna: N. Tebaldini, 1632


Quarto: 25.7 x 16.5 cm. [viii], 96 p. a4, A-M4


With an engraved title page Modern patterned boards, some paper loss to the spine but sound. A large copy with many margins untrimmed. Occasional light toning or light foxing. Minor marginal defects to blank edges of title page just touching the plate mark in the upper right corner with no loss. First few leaves with archival paper repairs in the gutter, again no loss. With numerous attractive woodcut ornaments in the text. Extremely rare. I have located only 3 copies in North America (Getty, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harvard.)

A very rare volume of verse in praise of the celebrated Baroque painter Guido Reni and his works by forty-four contributors. According to his biographer, Reni, embarrassed by the praise heaped upon him, tried to buy up all the copies of this book that he could. The paintings that inspired some of the eighty-eight poems include The Slaughter of the Innocents, a Virgin Mary with the sleeping infant Jesus (seen in the house of Pirro Zanetti), Saint Francis in prayer, David with the head of Goliath, Sleeping Cupid, the Abduction of Helen, Hercules, Ariadne, Cleopatra, an Annunciation, Jupiter and Semele, Mary Magdalene, a Crucifixion, and a portrait of Cardinal Bernardino Spada.

"In the inventory of the estate of the Bolognese painter Guido Reni (1575–1642), compiled shortly after his death, 'a painted deal chest with a variety of printed papers containing sonnets in praise of Sig.Guido and others' is mentioned.The fact that both Reni and his biographer Carlo Cesare Malvasia (1616-1693)held on to these compositions suggests that they formed an important part of the artist’s textual environment, and may actually help us to understand his work and how it was perceived. Indeed Malvasia scatters them around his 'Vita'of the artist, as tokens of the artist’s fame, for sure, but also because they illustrate something about the painter’s works…

"Even if Malvasia [wrote] that Reni “abhorred the compositions” of the poets, “ever fearing them to go out of bounds” and even “repeatedly begged [them] insistently” to refrain from praising him in their verses, it quickly becomes evident that it was praise of his own person from which he shied away, not praise for his paintings. Indeed, Malvasia does point out that the painter was a very shy man, who blushed at even a hint of praise."(Joris van Gastel, Guido Reni and the Poets)

"It was Gaetano Giordani who first identified Girolamo Giacobbi as the editor of an anthology of poems in praise of Guido Reni and his works entitled 'Lodi al Signor Guido Reni raccolte dall’Imperfetto Accademico Confuso'. However, Giacobbi’s name is nowhere mentioned in that text, therefore, we shall not assume that Giacobbi was necessarily the editor. Identified only as “L’Imperfetto, Accademico Confuso,” the editor of the volume alludes to his membership in the Bolognese literary academy of the Confusi, a short-lived academy founded in the second decade of the seventeenth century. The volume was printed in Bologna in 1632, and it contains poems on many of Guido’s works up to that date, including five poems on 'The Abduction of Helen'.

"Malvasia (1616-1693), Reni's biographer, tells us that Guido despised the hyperbolic praises that were heaped upon him. He places special emphasis upon the case of the 'Lodi': 'Because a book printed in 1632 by l’Imperfetto, a member of the Accademia dei Confusi, and dedicated to Abbot Vincenzo Sampieri, bore this title engraved on copper among various figures: 'Lodi al Sig. Guido Reni', {Guido} bought up all the copies of it, and had the title page reprinted [to read] 'Lodi a varie pitture del Sig. Guido Reni', and then gave them back to the bookseller, saying that praises were to be given to God, not to men, but that they could, however, be given to his paintings, to the extent that the Lord was represented in his figures of the saints.' As Malvasia reports, the 'Lodi' is dedicated to Abbot Vincenzo Sampieri, whose coat of arms with the device of the rampant greyhound appears at the top of the title page. Malvasia elsewhere describes Sampieri as a very close friend and patron of the Carracci and observes that the Sampieri family had acquired several works by Guido for their museum. 

"The dedicatory letter to Sampieri was written by the publisher, Nicolo Tebaldini, on May 8, 1632. Tebaldini employs the concettoof likening the book to 'a temple made of glory,' a conceit much admired by Giovanni Battista Manzini, who subsequently wrote to Tebaldini, elaborating upon the same idea. Tebaldini further characterizes the writers, the greatest pens of their age, as the temple’s chorus: 'I want to go no further, both because in this temple I am not worthy to perform any other part than that of a censer, and because our Deity needs no more singers, since he has a chorus full of the most glorious melodies, that would bring Envy herself to tears'. Because the editor of this printed 'temple' would thus serve as a conductor for the voices of the many poets who sing Guido’s praises, and because Girolamo Giacobbi was a professional choirmaster and choral composer, there could be more than a grain of truth in Giordani’s identification of Giacobbi as the 'Lodi''s editor.

"Many of the contributors to the 'Lodi' belonged to prominent patrician and senatorial families, and some were professional scholars. Some of the poems were published anonymously or under pseudonyms, and Malvasia states that at least some authors did not wish to be identified because Guido so strongly objected to the publication of their encomia."(Colantuono, Guido Reni's Abduction of Helen, the politics and rhetoric of painting in 17thc. Europe.)

Cicognara 2305; BL, 17th cent. Ital. Books 442