Guido Cagnacci  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Guido Cagnacci (January 19 16011663) was an Italian painter of the late-Baroque period, belonging to the Bolognese School.


The Death of Cleopatra[1] (1658) by Guido Cagnacci is his best-known work, in fact he did at least two versions of it.

In the history of baroquerotica, the name Cagnacci deserves a special place. He made paintings of the erotic vocabulary of the Renaissance everyman. Examples include the humanistic Allegory of Human Life[2], his “Drunken Noah[3], a Susanna and the Elders[4] Vanitas[5], a Roman Charity[6], Martha Rebuking Mary for her Vanity[7]

A special mention must go to Magdalena Fainted[8] (Italian: Maddalena svenuta).

He also made his name in the still life genre with Fiori[9], a lovely chiaroscuro.


Born in Santarcangelo di Romagna near Rimini, he died in Vienna in 1663. He worked in Rimini from 1627 to 1642. Prior to that he had been in Rome, in contact with Guercino, Guido Reni and Simon Vouet. He may have had an apprenticeship with the elderly Ludovico Carracci. His initial output includes many devotional subjects. But moving to Venice under the name of Guico Baldo Canlassi da Bologna, he renewed a friendship with Nicolas Regnier, and dedicated himself to private salon paintings, often depicting sensuous naked women from thigh upwards, including Lucretia, Cleopatra, and Mary Magdalene . This allies him to a strand of courtly painting, epitomized in Florence by Francesco Furini, Simone Pignoni and others. In 1650, he moved to Venice. In 1658, he traveled to Vienna, where he remained under patronage of the emperor Leopold I.

His life was at times tempestuous, as characterized by his failed elopement (1628) with an aristocratic widow. Some contemporaries remark him as eccentric, unreliable and of doubtful morality. he is said to have enjoyed the company of cross-dressing models.

Cagnacci's work was unappreciated by his contemporaries but reassessed by modern critics.

Selected Works

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