Publication Date

April 2018


Nadja Aksamija


Art History


English (United States)


Until the mid-1950s, the seventeenth-century Italian painter, Guido Cagnacci (1601-63) was relegated to the fringes of Baroque art historiography. Because he is still a new figure of scholarly interest (especially beyond the Italian peninsula), studies on this artist are blatantly underdeveloped in comparison to those on his better-known contemporaries. Particularly confounded by the shifts in quality exhibited in the painter?s earliest works, many scholars tend to overgeneralize his style (maniera) according to the more consistent pictorial elements they observe in his mature output. The paintings encompassed by this latter body of work were produced from the late 1630s until his death in 1663, and primarily portray nude figures rendered with a harmonious synthesis of classicism and naturalism as well as an uncanny eroticism that is nowhere to be found in his early canvases. Ultimately, these images help nourish a caricatured image of Cagnacci (who had a reputation for salacious behaviors) as a ?sensualist? whose works reflected his eccentric quotidian existence. Conceived in response to the lack of nuance in this profile, this study aims: (1) to arrive at a definition of Cagnacci?s maniera that takes into account and rationalizes both his early and late output; (2) to contextualize this maniera within the traditions of seventeenth-century painterly practices; (3) to explore how his compositions would have been understood and defined by contemporary artists and theorists; and finally (4) to better delineate the intentions that ultimately fueled his painterly output. In three chapters, I demonstrate how, through seemingly systemized signing practices and compositional choices, Guido Cagnacci persistently sought to refashion his identity as an artistic creator.



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