Beni Culturali Soprintendenza Speciale per il Patrimonio Storico Artistico ed Etnoantropologico per il Polo Museale della città di Roma

Head of an Old Man (Seneca)

Guido Reni, Testa di vecchio (Seneca) - Head of an Old Man (Seneca)
Object belonging
One's own
Terracotta sculpture
Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia
Specific location
Room 20
PV 10588
Material and technique
after Guido Reni (1575-1642)
37 cm.
Cavaceppi Collection (1799); Domenico Ravajoli (1958)
Image copyright
SSPSAE e per il Polo Museale della città di Roma

Short description

Amongst the numerous terracottas that belonged to the sculptor Bartolomeo Cavaceppi was a “fine head of an old man, looking upward” (Barberini 1994). After Giovanni Torlonia acquired the piece, together with the rest of Cavaceppi’s collection, all trace of the work was lost until it reappeared in 1958 when it was bought by the Italian State and given to the Palazzo Venezia museum. At that time the work was well known and was identified with the Head of Seneca, cited by Carlo Cesare Malvasia in the pages of Felsina pittrice dedicated to Guido Reni. Giving an overview of Reni’s sculptural work, Malvasia underlined how the artist’s skill marked him out in that discipline too. The work is cut off at the collarbone, emphasizing the strain of the old man, with his gaze turned upward, his mouth half-open and his neck straining. The skin is rendered in highly pictorial fashion, with numerous deep wrinkles, particularly around the nape of the neck where they pile up on top of each other. The terracotta is of undoubted quality, though there is a slight weakness in the modelling of the ears; nonetheless, the lack of documentary evidence and the still slim body of sculptural work that can be ascribed with certainty to Reni do not allow for a definite attribution of the piece, which could equally be derived from a work by Reni and executed by a Roman sculptor before the end of the 17th century.

Cristiano Giometti 


C.C. Malvasia, Felsina Pittrice: vite de' pittori bolognesi, 1678, ed. Bologna 1841, p. 59; F. Malaguzzi Valeri, Due statue di Guido Reni, in "Cronache d'arte", III, 1926, pp. 227-230; O. Kurtz, A Sculpture by Guido Reni, "The Burlington Magazine", 81, 474 (1942), pp. 222-226; A. Santangelo, Medaglie e placchette della collezione Ravajoli, in "Bolletino d'Arte", ser. 4, 43 (1948) pp. 378-379; F. Zeri, La Galleria Spada in Roma, Florence 1954, p. 90; M. G. Barberini and C. Gasparri (eds.), Bartolomeo Cavaceppi scultore romano 1717-1799, Rome 1994, p. 134; A. Bacchi, "Fece di rilievo e se ne diportò bene": Guido Reni e la "famosa testa di Seneca", in M. Cellini (ed.), Storie barocche: da Guercino a Serra e Savolini nella Romagna del Seicento, exh. cat., Bologna 2004, pp. 51-53, 166, no. 5a
Back to search
Mibac Minerva Europe Museo & Web
Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo
Via del Collegio Romano, 27
00186 Roma, Italia
tel. 39 06 67231

© Tutti i diritti riservati
Polo Museale del Lazio
Piazza San Marco, 49
00186 Roma, Italia
tel. 39 06699941

Museo Nazionale del Palazzo di Venezia
Piazza Venezia, 3
Ingresso agli Uffici:
Via del Plebiscito, 13 
Ingresso al Museo:
00186 Roma, Italia
tel. +39-06-69994284 




Copyright 2005 Ministero per I beni e le attività culturali e del turismo

Page created 15/01/2009, last modify 15/11/2010