Every day I come into the office, I look above my desk and say hello to my lady with the soulful brown eyes. You might ask, “Who is she?” She is Beatrice Cenci, a young woman whose portrait is displayed in a beautiful gold leaf frame. She joined my office suite in 2018 and has calmed me in times of stress or when I need a break from staring at a computer screen.
I did some research on the Internet and Wikipedia about the Portrait of Beatrice Cenci after learning a bit about this copy of the painting from Curt DiCamillo, Curator of Special Collections at American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogy Society. The painting is attributed to the Italian Baroque painter Guido Reni. The painting dealt with the controversial topic of Beatrice Cenci (6 February 1577–11 September 1599), a woman who was executed by Papal authorities, specifically Pope Clement VIII Aldobrandini, for murdering her father, Count Francesco Cenci, after an abusive and incestuous relationship. Her murder trial in Rome gave rise to an enduring legend. Beatrice became a symbol to the people of Rome of resistance to the arrogant aristocracy. It is said that every year, on the eve of the anniversary of her death, she returns to the bridge where she was executed, severed head in hand.
Beatrice became a symbol to the people of Rome of resistance against the arrogant aristocracy.
The artist has been highly debated, with many previous critics assigning the work to Elisabetta Sirani, depicting Beatrice in the white robes of a Roman Sybil or perhaps a vestal virgin, evoking sympathy. She looks back at us in a melancholy pose. Tradition holds that Guido Reni painted the work for Cardinal Ascanio Colonna. The debate over the authorship and its influence are as interesting as the work itself. Traditions with no surviving documentation claim Reni entered Beatrice’s cell the day before the execution, or saw her on the way to the scaffold. Others claim he was not even in Rome at that date. The earliest Barberini catalogue states it likely depicts the Cenci girl by an unknown painter; only a later one attributes the work to Reni.
My lady is part of American Ancestors | New England Historic Genealogical Society’s vast art collection. Restoration work is badly needed. Some say the large cut in her canvas was caused by someone’s knee, others that she was damaged while being moved. She has a few stains on her dress along with a tear, and her frame, although opulent, needs your help!
Those soulful eyes express sadness yet peace. She is a calming presence in a sea of uncertainty. She cries out to be saved: if not in her first life, now, here, in her afterlife. Her restoration is estimated at $5,000-$10,000. Please consider a donation to help this beautiful lady with the soulful brown eyes.