Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Painting of the Day: Portrait of Beatrice Cenci, 1842

Portrait Miniature of Beatrice Cenci
Charles Richard Bone, 1842
After Guido Reni
The Victoria & Albert Museum

The remarkable vibrancy of this painting from 1842 owes to the fact that it was painted in enamel on metal. Enamel, more so than traditional miniature painting (watercolor painted on vellum or ivory) was preferable as a medium in as much as it does not fade when exposed to light. However this technique does not allow the freedom that watercolor does. The V&A describes it best, “The process of painting with enamels is, however, less free than the miniature technique and is fraught with danger. The first colors to be laid on the metal support have to be those needing the highest temperature when firing. More color is added and the enamel re-fired, the process ending with the colors needing the lowest temperature.” Furthermore, due to the intensive labor associated with the technique, this was a far more expensive option that the usual choices.

This is actually an enamel copy of an earlier portrait by Guido Reni. Charles Richard Bone, grandson of artist Henry Bone, and son of the celebrated Henry Pierce Bone, has taken great pains to recreate Reni’s portrait of Beatrice Cenci, an Italian noblewoman who was famously at the center of a lurid, Sixteenth-Century Roman murder trial.

Beatrice Cenci (1577-1599) is said to have murdered her brutal father and was condemned to death by Pope Clement VIII. The original by the influential Seventeenth-Century Italian painter Guido Reni hangs in the Galleria Barberini, Rome.

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