Monumental 18th Century Oil Painting After Guido Reni’s “L’Aurora” or “Aurora Leads The Chariot of Apollo” (1614)

Very Large 18th Century oil painting after Italian Old Master Guido Reni (Italian, 1575-1642) Entitled “L’Aurora” also titled “Aurora Leads The Chariot of Apollo” (1614)

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  • Monumental (over 6 feet wide) 18th Century oil painting after Italian Old Master Guido Reni (Italian, 1575-1642) | Entitled “L’Aurora” also titled “Aurora Leads The Chariot of Apollo” (1614) | Housed in a beautiful period gold gilded gesso wood frame | Dimensions: Image size: 28″ H x 60″ W; Frame Size: 41.5″ H x 74″ W | Provenance: From a Private Philadelphia Collector | Guido Reni (Italian pronunciation: [ˌɡwiːdo ˈrɛːni]; 4 November 1575 – 18 August 1642) was an Italian painter of high-Baroque style. He painted primarily religious works, as well as mythological and allegorical subjects. Active in Rome, Naples, and his native Bologna, he became the dominant figure in the Bolognese School, and his eclectic classicism was widely influential.
    About Guido Reni’s L’Aurora Fresco 
    Essay by Dr. Shannon Pritchard
    One of the most beautiful and elegant of these ceilings is Guido Reni’s Aurora, painted in 1614 for the Roman Cardinal Scipione Borghese for the ceiling of his small summer house known as the Casino dell’Aurora. This casino (not the gambling sort) was part of the Cardinal’s larger palace residence located on the Quirinal Hill in Rome. The fresco represents Aurora (left), goddess of the dawn, bringing forth a new day as she leads the way for Apollo (below), god of light (among many other things), who follows behind in his golden quadriga (a four-horse chariot). That Aurora is bringing the dawn is evident through the change in the sky we see between the two gods: a darkish silvery gray before Aurora that turns into a bright, golden light filled sky before Apollo.
    Below the edges of the clouds is a distant landscape slowly being illuminated by the dawn, with small sailboats barely visible out on the sea beyond. Aurora’s gauzy drapery flutters around her figure as she seems to be preparing to drop the sprays of flowers she carries in her hands onto the landscape below.

    Apollo in his chariot surrounded by female figures – The Hours (detail), Guido Reni, Aurora, 1613-14, ceiling fresco (Casino dell’Aurora, Rome)

    Apollo, clothed only in a light purple wrap, is enveloped in a warm, golden halo of light. Hovering between Aurora and Apollo is a torch bearing putto (a winged child similar in appearance to Cupid, but not Cupid), identified as Phosphorus, an ancient personification of the Morning Star (detail, below). Elegant female figures, known as Hours, dance alongside the chariot, representing the passage of time, with their diaphanous draperies blown gently by the wind.

    The figures are represented in an ideal manner as their physiognomies and physiques are flawless and perfect in their beauty. They are timeless and ageless, never to be marred by old age and decrepitude. Moreover, Reni’s soft pastel color palette lends an idyllic, mythic quality to the scene.

    Borghese Dancers, c. 2nd- 3rd centuries, marble, 72 x 188 cm (Louvre)

    Torch-bearing putto (detail), Guido Reni, Aurora, 1613-14, ceiling fresco (Casino dell’Aurora, Rome


    Baroque Classicism

    As the Aurora is an exemplar of Baroque classicism, a style within the Baroque period that purposefully recalls art from ancient Greece and Rome, it is not surprising to find that Reni’s fresco makes many references to actual works of art from Classical Antiquity. For example, the figures of the Hours bear close resemblance to the female figures in a Roman relief known today as the Borghese Dancers (above), which was originally part of Cardinal Borghese’s collection of antiquities. Similarly, the figure of Phosphorus may have been influenced by a tondo (circular form) on the east side of the ancient Roman Arch of Constantine, which represents Sol, the sun god, similarly being led by a torch bearing putto (below).

    Tondo with Sun God, c. 315 C.E., marble frieze (Arch of Constantine, Rome)


    Quadro riportato—painting taken elsewhere

    Let us now consider the experience of viewing the Aurora in the Casino dell’Aurora. The fresco is a singular scene, isolated in the center of the ceiling, surrounded by a physical (not simply painted) frame of molded stucco that is decorated with gold leaf (a process known as gilding). Reni’s use of a frame around his fresco is a pictorial device known as quadro riportato, or “painting taken elsewhere.” The idea was to the trick the viewer into thinking that an easel painting, a framed painting we would normally expect to find hanging on a wall, had actually been placed on the ceiling (keep in mind that Aurora is a fresco, painted right on the ceiling).

    Annibale Carracci, Farnese Gallery Ceiling, 1597-1608, fresco (Palazzo Farnese, Rome)
    Reni was not the first to do this, as there was already another famous ceiling in Rome that also used quadro riportato—the Farnese Gallery Ceiling painted by Annibale Carracci (above). In the case of the Farnese ceiling, however, the frames are not physical frames, but were painted illusions—a technique known as trompe l’oeil (literally to “trick the eye”). Thus, in comparison, we might say that Reni’s use of an actual frame was a very direct interpretation of quadro riportato!

    Guercino, Aurora, c. 1621, fresco (Casino di Villa Boncompagni Ludovisi, Rome)



    In addition to the “framing” of paintings on ceilings, artists used another illusionistic technique of visually breaking the ceiling so the image appears to be in the sky above, not inside the room. An example of this is another painting with the subject of Aurora, this one by the artist Guercino (above). Painted just a few years after Reni’s Aurora, Guercino extended the architecture of the room onto the vaulted ceiling and then “opened” it up so the viewer would see Aurora and her entourage racing by in the sky above. The painted illusionistic architecture, known as quadrattura, was also a popular illusionistic pictorial device used in several other Roman ceilings in the seventeenth century (including Pozzo’s Glorification of Saint Ignatius—a ceiling fresco in the church of Sant’Ignazio in Rome).

    Giorgio Vasanzio and Carlo Maderno, Casino dell’Aurora Pallavicini, the façade, 1611–16 (Rome)


    The classical past

    In the end, Guido Reni’s fresco, classicizing in both style and subject, with its golden stucco frame, was a perfect choice for the Casino dell’Aurora. Set in the gardens of Cardinal Borghese’s estate, the summer house was specifically intended to allude to, if not actually recreate, elements of the Classical past. Its façade was (and still is) decorated with ancient Roman sarcophagi and reliefs further enhancing its intended atmosphere. Perhaps we can imagine Cardinal Borghese looking up at Aurora bringing in the new day as he escaped the hot Roman summer sun in his own personal version of arcadia.

    Essay by Angela Greco & Giorgio Chiantini – Translated from Italian: Guido Reni, Aurora leads the chariot of Apollo (1613 – 1614) fresco (ceiling), Casino dell’Aurora, Palazzo Pallavicini Rospigliosi – Rome

    The central window of the pavilion is just approached; the golden light of the sunset filters through three large windows that give onto Via XXIV Maggio and Piazza del Quirinale. Inside, squinting, you are enveloped in a bright, pink, orange, violet dust, while the amber white of the marble becomes almost transparent. But if you look upwards, the sensations are fixed and take shape, the colors become volumes and define spaces and figures: on the vault of the great central environment appears in all its magnificence the fresco of L’Aurora, painted from Guido Reni between 1613 and 1614.

    So Giovanna A.Bufalini – in the text “Masterpieces to discover – Colonna, Pallavicini, Patrizi Montoro” published by Skira in 2007 – introduces the reader to the vision of this work by Guido Reni, an Italian painter of the seventeenth century, who arrives at Rome in 1602, becoming the interpreter of the cultured and aristocratic taste of the Roman patrons, protected by Paul V and Scipione Borghese, and dividing his business between Rome and Bologna, where he would definitely stop around 1620.

    In the large fresco (which is influenced by the study of ancient sculpture as well as the knowledge of Raphael and Correggio) performed in the central environment of the Casino of the Aurora Pallavicini – continues the Bufalini – the young Apollo, wrapped in a halo of light, guides the golden chariot of the Sun, drawn by four horses, which are aligned in a single volume, a light leap in the air, and bring the light of the new day to the earth. The Aurora precedes the race of the Sun; it is wrapped in light veils, which stand out against the dark violet of the clouds and reflect the luminous white of the rising light, the delicate orange of the first rays. The Aurora hunts to the right the darkness of the night and on landscapes of blue and precious seas, furrowed by small white sails, on small happy archipelagos, on blue distant mountains, green hills and dark woods, spreads the pink and orange of the new day.

    Reni seems to want to wrap and rise in the same place of the sky and at the same time captured by the fresco, the spectator able to see above his head, going beyond the human sense of gravity and humanity itself, approaching that space made for the gods where is itThe Aurora raises small wreaths of flowers, which with a white glance break first the dark darkness of the night veil. Between the Aurora and the curo del Sole there is a winged putto, the Twilight, which bears a torch from the reddish flame. On the chariot, the young Apollo is enveloped in a broad, swirling cloak; his skin is pink, the delicate features. The warm light that radiates from the chariot breaks down into the luminous colors of the veils that envelop young bodies of girls, the Hours, which dance around the Sun, a triumph of light. The drapery of clouds appears like a light fifth, which descends on the blue night.

    It is precisely due to the courageous contrast between the dominant complementary orange-blue that the fresco overcomes the conventionality of a fashion composition. The fresco is framed by golden stuccos, with feminine figures and floral motifs; on the sides of the fresco, the same frame encloses two symmetrical lunettes, in which are depicted winged zephyrs on a blue background, which dilates and gives resonance to the navy blue. The fresco is shown on the vault without taking into account the fact that it must be looked at from below; it does not use baroque perspectives from the bottom up and to observe it for longer it is preferable to use a mirror.

    It seems almost as if Beauty should be conquered, implying a certain amount of effort so that it can be the prerogative of the eye that admires it from another level, perhaps less by chance, slowing down time, diluting the frenzy of life, rejecting that haste Reni himself did not love and with whom everything had to be done during the years he spent in Rome, which he could not stand with the lack of respect for the mind of the artist who directed creation and which was considered little more than a paid worker.

  • Date

    18th Century