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The Apostle James the Greater
Reni, Guido
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Reni, Guido

Calvezzano, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, 1575 - Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, 1642

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The Apostle James the Greater

1618 - 1623. Oil on canvas.
Room 004

This work depicts Saint James the Greater, who was Saint John`s brother and one of the Apostles closest to Christ. He witnessed Christ`s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, accompanied him at the Sermon on the Mount and was present at the Taking of Christ. The saint is shown at more than half length, wearing a green tunic and a yellow robe in a depiction belonging to the rich tradition of paintings and engravings of the Apostles -some were independent, others belonged to apostolates- that sought to strengthen the role of the saints as intermediaries between God and the faithful, in keeping with the dictates of the Counter-Reformation.

Saint James here gazes at heaven, imploring divine intervention with joined hands. The painting has no complex iconographic attributes, and the saint is identifiable only by his pilgrim`s staff, which alludes to his evangelical travels. According to tradition, Saint James visited Spain, and while he did return to Jerusalem, where he was martyred, his body was buried centuries later in Compostela, in north-west Spain. His tomb made Compostela the second most important site of Christian pilgrimage in Europe, after Rome. While documents in the Museo del Prado`s archives show that scholars Bernard Berenson and Hermann Voss were already certain that this work was by Guido Reni, it was not identified as such until 1955, when Cesare Gnudi and Gian Carlo Cavalli confirmed that it was indeed by his hand, and also emphasised its excellent technical qualities.

Reni was a pupil of the Carracci and, following their death, became the pre-eminent exponent of the school of Bologna and a key figure in the dissemination of the Baroque, both in Italy and abroad. This work is a fine example of the artist`s capacity to blend Caravaggio`s naturalism with the Carracci`s monumentality. It also reveals his gift for using colour, and his excellent draughtsmanship. Reni`s figures are simultaneously idealised and realistic, making his works psychologically and emotionally accessible to the viewer. This is indicative of his method of working from life, and his sound knowledge of ancient art and that of Raphael. Among other works by Reni, the Museo del Prado has two further paintings of Apostles: a Saint Peter and a smaller, oval-shaped Saint Paul, that seem to be related to each other, but not to this painting of Saint James. The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston also has a slightly later version of this work, of the same size and format, which differs slightly from the present work, including in respect to the position of the pilgrim`s staff.

This work belonged to Elisabeth Farnese, whose father Edward II was crown prince of the Duchy of Parma and a great lover of the arts. When in 1714 Elisabeth became Philip V`s second wife she moved to Spain with a sizeable collection of works of art that almost certainly included The Apostle James the Greater, 1618-23. That collection continued to expand over the years, thanks to acquisitions, gifts and legacies. The present painting was installed in the Royal Palace of La Granja, San Ildefonso, a royal seat built for Philip V. After 1744 it became a part of the Spanish Royal Collection and was sent to the palace in Aranjuez, where it is listed as hanging in the Prayer Room in 1794. In 1814 the work was in the infant Don Francisco`s quarters at Madrid`s Royal Palace, and from there it was moved to the Museo del Prado.

Pancorbo, A., Guido Reni 'The Apostle Saint James the Greater' En:. Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, p.108


Technical data

Related artworks

Saint James the Greater
Scraper, Lithographic aquatint, Pen lithography, Crayon lithography on wove paper, 1826 - 1837
Real Establecimiento Litográfico de Madrid
Inventory number
Reni, Guido
The Apostle James the Greater
1618 - 1623
Height: 135 cm; Width: 89 cm
Royal Collection (Collection of Isabel Farnesio, Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso, Segovia, 1746, n. 318; La Granja Palace, "cuarto del rey-piezas que ocupa la señora infanta", 1766, n. 318; Royal Palace of Aranjuez, Madrid, "pieza del oratorio y otras sueltas", 1794, n. 318; Royal Palace, Madrid, "cuarto del infante don Francisco-primera pieza", 1814-1818, n. 318).

Bibliography +

Palacio del Real Sitio de San Ildefonso. La Granja. 1746, Inventario general Pinturas, Muebles y otras alhajas de la Reina Nuestra Señora que tiene en el Palacio del Real Sitio de San Ildefonso, VII, 1746, pp. 28.

Gnudi, Cesare, Guido Reni, Vallecchi, Florencia, 1955, pp. 83.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del S. XVII en España, Universidad Fundación Valdecilla, Madrid, 1965, pp. 177-178.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Baccheschi, Edi, La obra pictórica completa de Guido Reni, Noguer, Barcelona.Madrid, 1977.

Pepper, Stephen, Guido Reni. A Complete Catalogue of His Works With An Introd, Phaidon, Oxford, 1984, pp. 234/ lám.78.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 539.

Fernandez Miranda y Lozana, Fernando, Inventarios Reales. Carlos III. 1789-1790. Vol. I, I, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid, 1988.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº836.

Santiago, San Martin Pinario, Xunta de Galicia.Conselleria de Cul, Santiago De Composte, 1999.

Aterido Fernández, Ángel; Martínez Cuesta, Juan; Pérez Preciado, José Juan, Colecciones de pinturas de Felipe V e Isabel Farnesio. Inventarios Reales, II, Fundación de Apoyo de la Historia del Arte Hispánico, Madrid, 2004, pp. 453.

Pancorbo, A., Guido Reni 'The Apostle Saint James the Greater' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 108.

Portús Pérez, Javier, Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: The Golden Age in the Museo del Prado, The Yomiuri Shimbun: The National Museum of Western Art, Tokio, 2018, pp. n.55.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 261.
261.-El apóstol Santiago. / Alto 1,35. Ancho 0,89.-Lienzo. / Está en meditacion, con los ojos levantados al cielo y las manos juntas. Tiene manto amarillo y túnica verde, y el bordon de peregrino junto al pecho.-Figura de medio cuerpo y tamaño natural. / Colec. de Carlos III, procedente de la de doña Isabel Farnesio, Pal. de San Ildef. Pieza primera de azulejos.

Inv. Isabel Farnesio, La Granja, 1746. Núm. 318.
Una Pintura Origl en Lienzo, de mano de Guidorene, que reptª el Apostol SnTiago con las manos puestas, y el Bordòn arrimado al pecho: Tiene vara y mª y siete dedos de alto, y otra, y seis de ancho Marco dorado Cincelado ... 1

Inv. Testamentaría Isabel Farnesio, La Granja, 1766. Núm. 318.
Pieza ultima del quarto del Rey [...] Muebles que estan repartidos en las piezas antecedentes [...] 318 / Un quadro de cinco pies de alto, y quatro de ancho, marco dorado, y gravado, que representa un Santiago de Guido, vale quatro mil rrs

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Aranjuez, 1794. Núm. 318.
Pieza del Oratorio y otras sueltas [...] {262} 318 / Cinco pies de alto y tres y medio de ancho: Santiago Apostol. Guido Reni, tasada en dos mil reales ... 2000

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. 318.
Cuarto del Infante Don Francisco / Primera pieza [...] {21992} 318 / dos varas menos quarta de alto vara y quarta de ancho Santiago apostol Guido

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 836.
Guido / 836. Santiago. / Esta en meditacion con los ojos levantados al cielo y las manos cruzadas. Tiene manto amarillo y tunica verde. (Figura de medio cuerpo.) / Alto 4 pies, 10 pulg; ancho 3 pies, 2 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 836.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

Velázquez and the Golden Age
16.11.2018 - 03.03.2019

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
13.06.2018 - 14.10.2018

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
24.02.2018 - 27.05.2018

Velázquez and the Celebration of Painting: the Golden Age in the Museo del Prado
20.02.2018 - 27.05.2018

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Santiago de Compostela
25.05.1999 - 31.12.1999

Location +

Room 004 (On Display)

Update date: 22-12-2022 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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