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The Virgin of the Chair
Reni, Guido
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Reni, Guido

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

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The Virgin of the Chair

1624 - 1625. Oil on canvas.
Room 026

Sitting on a sumptuous chair, the Virgin tenderly contemplates the nude Christ child, whose expression is pensive and informal. Above them, two cherubs crown Mary. Michelangelo’s sculpture, the Madonna of Bruges has been mentioned as a possible influence, as both combine a carefree Christ child with a solemn mother.

After Bolognese classicism went out of fashion in the second half of the 19th century, this work was looked upon with some scorn. Pérez Sánchez, for example, who knew the Museo del Prado’s collection of Italian painting very well, affirmed: Today, it is not so esteemed and it can be seen as a lesser, second-rate work that may well have been painted largely by the artist’s workshop. In 1980, a restoration required by this painting’s delicate state of conservation removed the old repainting that had hidden its quality, leading to a radical change of opinion. Since then, no one has doubted its authorship and it is again considered a work by Reni.

Guido Reni trained at the studio of Denys Calvaert and later, in 1594, he entered the Accademia founded in Bologna by the Carracci, studying there for four years. In 1601 he settled in Rome, where he painted for outstanding patrons, including the Borghese family. He maintained contact with painters from the Carracci’s circle, including Domenichino and Albani. His rebellious character and his failure to meet his deadlines for certain works, as well as numerous gambling debts, led to quarrels with some of his clients, including the pope. He developed a pictorial style influenced by classical sculpture and by Raphael, with severe forms and vibrant colors. Particularly striking are his female religious figures, who turn their eyes imploringly toward heaven and were later copied by innumerable artists. His final works are characterized by monochromatic tonalities and unfinished forms.

There is no concrete information about when Madonna with a Chair entered Spain’s Royal Collection, but it was already there during the reign of Philip IV, who sent it to decorate the monastery at El Escorial. It appeared in the Prior’s meeting hall there in 1660 and was seen and praised by Hieronymite monk Francisco de los Santos in 1667. In 1772, it is also mentioned by Antonio Ponz, author of a Spanish travelogue with significant information about art. In 1837, it was moved to the Museo del Prado from the Royal Palace in Madrid, where it had been since at least 1811.

El Prado en el Hermitage, Museo Estatal del Hermitage: Museo del Prado, 2011, p.100-101


Technical data

Inventory number
Reni, Guido
The Virgin of the Chair
1624 - 1625
Height: 213.8 cm; Width: 137.5 cm
Royal Collection (Sent to the Monastery of El Escorial by Philip IV; brought to France by Joseph Bonaparte; brought to the Prado in 1837).

Bibliography +

Ponz, Antonio, Viage de España: en que se da noticia de las cosas mas apreciables, y dignas de saberse, que hay en ella, Atlas, Madrid, 1794; ed. facs. 1972, pp. 139.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del S. XVII en España, Universidad Fundación Valdecilla, Madrid, 1965, pp. 174.

Andrés, Gregorio de, Relación anónima del s. XVII sobre los cuadros del Escorial, Archivo Español de Arte, 44, 1971, pp. 53.

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.

El niño en el Museo del Prado, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General de Bellas Artes, Madrid, 1983, pp. 170.

Pepper, Stephen, Guido Reni. A Complete Catalogue of His Works With An Introd, Phaidon, Oxford, 1984, pp. 250/ lám.123.

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

Emiliani, Andrea, Guido Reni. 1575-1642, Nuova Alfa Editoriale, Bolonia, 1988, pp. 102.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº751.

Ruiz Manero, José María, Pintura italiana del siglo XVI en España. II. Rafael y su escuela. Copias y obras relacionadas con Giulio Romano, Revista Virtual de la Fundación Universitaria Española, V, 1992.

Ruiz Manero, José María, Pintura italiana del siglo XVI en España, Fundación Universitaria Española, Madrid, 1996, pp. 166.

Spear, Richard E., The Divine Guido. Religion, Sex, Money and Art in the World, Yale University Press, New Haven; London, 1997, pp. 161.

Colomer, José Luis, Guido Reni en las colecciones reales españolas, En: José Luis Colomer y Amadeo Serra Desfilis (dirs.), Bolonia y España. Siete siglos de relaciones artísticas y culturales, Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica; Fundación Carolina, Madrid, 2006, pp. 224, 233, il. p. 207.

Il Sassoferrato : una preraffaellita tra i puristi del Seice..., Medusa, 2009, pp. 39.

El Prado en el Hermitage, Museo Estatal del Hermitage: Museo del Prado, 2011, pp. 100-101.

García Cueto, David, 'La Colección Real española en los siglos XVI y XVII y el copiado pictórico: Una Aproximación contextual' En:, Actas del Congreso internacional: Las copias de las obras maestras de la pintura en las colecciones de los Austrias y el Museo del Prado. Junio 2017, Madrid, 2021, pp. 8-16 [15 nt.59].

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 259.
259.-La Vírgen de la Silla. / Alto 2,12. Ancho 1,37.-Lienzo. / Está sentada, con el niño Dios de pié, en el suelo, descansando entre sus rodillas. Su mano derecha apoya en el brazo derecho de Jesus, y en su izquierda tiene un libro. Dos angelitos, en disposición simétrica, bajan con una corona de preciosa labor para ponerla sobre su cabeza.-Figuras de tamaño natural. / Procede del R. Monast. de San Lorenzo del Esc. / F.L.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 751.
Guido / 751. La virgen de la silla. / Está sentada con el Niño dios entre las rodillas, y dos angeles coronandola. (figuras de cuerpo entero) (E.) / Alto 7 pies, 7 pulg; ancho 4 pies, 11 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 751.

Exhibitions +

06.06.2020 - 25.07.2021

El Prado en el Hermitage
San Petersburgo
25.02.2011 - 29.05.2011

Guido Reni
Fort Worth
11.03.1989 - 14.05.1989

Guido Reni
Los Ángeles CA
08.12.1988 - 12.02.1989

Guido Reni
10.09.1988 - 10.11.1988

Location +

Room 026 (On Display)


Displayed objects +

Crown / Wreath

Update date: 13-05-2022 | Registry created on 02-12-2015

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