More art news

Following my stint on issue 3 of Paint & Draw, issue 4 featured my news story ‘Cagnacci’s Repentant Magdalene on Display’ and my roundup of exhibitions.

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Cagnacci’s Repentant Magdalene on display

Baroque masterpiece at the National Gallery

Unconventional Italian Baroque artist Guido Cagnacci’s works don’t feature in any UK public collections. But that’s set to change when his painting, The Repentant Magdalene, arrives at the National Gallery in February. The painting controversially delicts Mary Magdalene lying half-naked, her sister Martha begging her to give up her sinful life of luxury. Meanwhile Virtue, a blond-haired angel, chases out Vice, a devil who bites his hand in anger as he looks longingly at Magdalene.

“It has long been a dream of mine to bring this painting to London – it is unquestionably Cagnacci’s masterpiece and one of the greatest Italian Baroque pictures of all time. I hope our visitors are bowled over by it, as I was when I first saw the painting in California 15 years ago,” says Letizia Treves, curator of Later Italian, Spanish, and French 17th-century paintings.

Cagnacci (1601-1663) knew his depiction of the saint was a deviation from the norm, and signed his work ‘GVIDVS CAGNACCIVS INVENTOR’, rather than the usual ‘pinxit’ (painted) or ‘fecit’ (made). The artist painted this work while living in Vienna, around 1660-61. Though little of his life is documented, legal and criminal records mention some events in his personal life.

“Cagnacci is a little-known master but The Repentant Magdalene is his most important work and once seen it gets lodged in the mind. It is an unforgettable work,” says National Gallery director Dr Gabriele Finaldi.

The Repentant Magdalene is on loan from the Norton Simon Museum, California, which purchased it in 1981. Prior to that, it had been in England for 250 years, arriving from Italy in 1711 for the Duke of Portland’s collection. The exhibition runs from 15 February until 21 May at the National Gallery, London.

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