List of Artworks

Research Notes: Part 2, no. 4, Folio 8 recto

Possibly Identified
Guido Reni, Angel Appearing to Saint Jerome (ca. 1638)
Fig. II, 4, a
Guido Reni (Italian, 1575–1642)
Title: Angel Appearing to Saint Jerome
Date: ca. 1638
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 199.7 x 147.9 cm (78 5/8 x 58 1/4 in.)
Current location: Detroit, Mich., Detroit Institute of Arts, repository no. 69.6
Image Source: Detroit Institute of Arts
Detriot Institute of Arts, USAFounders Society Purchase / Bridgeman Images

Genoa, Palazzo Balbi, Coll. Jacomo Balbi (cf. Cochin, 1758; seen there by William Irvine, 12 May 1804); GB, Coll. Andrew Wilson (imported picture to England in 1804); GB, Coll. Walsh Porter, Esq. Purchased from Wilson 6 May 1807 (cf. Buchanan, 1824, II, p. 201; Walsh Porter puchsased it for 766 pounds, 10 shillings). London (?), W. Porter Esq., auction, 14 April 1810, lot 39 or 40 (purchased by Goddard for £640.10); Saltmarshe, Herefordshire, Coll. Edmund Higginson, auction, 4 June 1846, lot 181 (sold to 2nd Lord Northwick for 260 gns.); Thirlestane House, Cheltentham, Coll. 2nd Lord Northwick (see "Hours in the Picture Gallery of Thirlestane," copy in NG, London); Thirlestane House, Cheltentham, 2nd Lord Northwick, auction, 1859, lot 539; Northwick Park, Coll. George, 3rd Lord Northwick (purchased at above auction for 350 guineas); by descent, Captain E. G. Spencer-Churchill, M. C. (Northwick Park); London, Spencer-Churchill ("Northwick Park Collection: Important Pictures by Old Masters c. 1400 - c. 1600"), auction [Christie's], 28 May 1965, lot. 35, p. 41; London, Julius Weitzner (dealer); London, Hallsborough Gallery (dealer-1969), by whom purchased for the DIA by the Founders Society. The 1965 sale catalogue notes that "according to a MS. note by the 3rd Lord Northwick, the picture is 'said to have been purchased by the Prince Regent for 8000 guineas'"; this is in error, according to S. Pepper's DIA Bulletin article, based on information from Oliver Millar.

Jorge Fernández-Santos Ortiz-Iribas suggests that the painting described in the inventory of 1680 could be the picture that is currently at the Detroit Institute of Arts, since the description and the dimensions match (fig. II, 4, a).1 In addition, it is the only painting depicting the subject of Saint Jerome with the angel attributed to Guido Reni whose measurements match those of the description provided by our two documents.2 If this identification were confirmed, it would eliminate the gap in the provenance of this work, which was first documented as being in the Galleria Balbi in 1758, according to Charles-Nicholas Cochin.3

Piero Boccardo and Xavier Salomon suggest that the painting already could have been in the collection of Francesco Balbi as early as 1677, according to the marquis de Seignelay, who, during a visit to Italy in 1671, noted in his diary a reference to a painting of Saint Jerome by Guido Reni (the diary was published in the eighteenth century).4 Nevertheless, the reference is too vague: “Saint Jeróme du Guide, peint de sa première manière” (“Saint Jerome by Guido, painted in his early style”).5 In the Balbi collection described by Cochin in 1758, another painting of Saint Jerome by Guido Reni was listed: “San Jeróme lisant, grand tableau de Guido Reni” (“Saint Jerome Reading, a large picture by Guido Reni”), which might be the same picture mentioned by the marquis de Seignelay.6, 7 Another possibility is that the Mellini family owned a copy of the original by Reni; in the inventory of 1680 it is described as being from the “school of Guido Reni.”

The description in the 1681 poem, however, is slightly different. It includes a detail that we do not find in the description in the 1680 inventory. In keeping with Pietro’s objective of re-creating the most emotional aspects of the works he is describing, he indicates that Saint Jerome seems to have an expression of amazement on his face (“whose mind / Seems to be enveloped in a daze”). This is one example in which it is interesting to note that each inventory provides different descriptions for what is apparently the same painting. In this sense, we can see how the description in the poem matches much better with the other version of Saint Jerome and the angel recently attributed to Reni—an unfinished work currently located in the Piacenza Cathedral (fig. II, 4, b).8 According to the rhetorical stance that characterizes the poem, this verse highlights the emotional gesture of Saint Jerome, similar to how he is depicted in the Piacenza painting as well as in other contemporary paintings representing the same theme (fig. II, 4, a).

Guido Reni, Saint Jerome with the Angel (1642) Fig. II, 4, b
Guido Reni (Italian, 1575–1642)
Saint Jerome with the Angel
Oil on canvas
233 x 173 cm (91 3/4 x 68 1/8 in.)
Piacenza, Italy, Piacenza Cathedral
Atlante Della’Arte Italiana
Su concessione dell’Ufficio per i Beni Culturali Ecclesiastici della Diocesi di Piacenza-Bobbio

Very little is known about the provenance of the painting by Guido Reni in the Piacenza Cathedral (fig. II, 4, b). Nevertheless, in the 1788 inventory of Count Girolamo Ranuzzi, there is a painting described as “Un quadro grande rappresentante S. Girolamo, che ascolta un angelo, figura intera al naturale, abozzo di Guido Reni originale con cornice intagliata e dorata alto P. 6 d. 1, largo P. 4” (“A large painting of St. Jerome listening to an angel, full-length figure, life size, an original sketch by Guido Reni with a carved, gilded frame, 6 palms high, 4 palms wide”).9

A painting of the same subject, albeit slightly different dimensions, is also listed in the 1738 inventory of the estate of Mario Mellini IV: “Altro di pal[mi] 7 e 5 p[er] alto rapp[resentan]te San Girolamo a sedere con libro in mano et Angelo in aria con cornicetta dorata antica” (“Another painting 7 by 5 palms, depicting Saint Jerome seated with a book in his hand and an Angel in the air, with an antique gilded frame”).10 In the inventory of Urbano III, this description is found, which may refer to the same painting: “Un altro con cornice dorata alto palmi 7 largo 5 in circa figura S: Girolamo” (“Another painting with a gilded frame about 7 palms high and 5 wide, with a figure of S. Jerome”).11 There is no other reference to a painting of Saint Jerome in the 1667 inventory.

For the provenance of the painting located at the Detroit Institute of Arts (fig. II, 4, a), see Detroit Institute of Arts.


  • 1. Jorge Fernández-Santos Ortiz-Iribas, “The Inventory of Pietro Mellini’s Collection at the Palazzo del Rosario in 1680,” Burlington Magazine 150, no. 1265 (August 2008): 512–20.
  • 2. D. Stephen Pepper, Guido Reni: L’opera completa (Novara: Istituto Geografico de Agostini, 1988).
  • 3. Charles-Nicholas Cochin, Voyage d’Italie, ou Recueil de notes Sur les Ouvrages de Peinture & de Sculpture, qu’on voit dans les principales villes d’Italie (Paris: C. A. Jombert, pere, 1769), 281.
  • 4. Piero Boccardo and Xavier F. Salomon, The Agony and the Ecstasy: Guido Reni’s Saint Sebastians (Milan: Silvana, 2007), 76.
  • 5. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, marquis de Seignelay, and Pierre Clément, L’Italie en 1671: Relation d’un voyage du marquis de Seignelay, Suivie de lettres inédites à Vivonne, Du Quesne, Tourville, Fénelon, et précédée d’une étude historique par Pierre Clément (Paris: Didier et ce, 1867), 117.
  • 6. Cochin, Voyage d’Italie, 281.
  • 7. Colbert and Clément, L’Italie en 1671, 117.
  • 8. Atlante Della’Arte Italiana.
  • 9. Getty Provenance Index.
  • 10. Archivio Serlupi Crescenzi, Rome, Inventario dei mobili di Mon Mario Mellini, vol. 84, 1738, fol. 7.
  • 11. Archivio Serlupi Crescenzi, Rome, Inventario dei mobili di Mon Mario Mellini, vol. 84, 1738, fol. 7.


Ortiz-Iribas, Jorge Fernández-Santos. “The Inventory of Pietro Mellini’s Collection at the Palazzo del Rosario in 1680.” Burlington Magazine 150, no. 1265 (August 2008): 512–20.