This is nothing less than beautiful and one of my favourite paintings. The depiction here by Guido Reni of the dialogue between St Matthew the Evangelist and the angel is doubtless one of the Baroque master’s most exquisite works, dating between 1645-40. (He died in 1642). The particular choice of colour, the close cropping of the picture, with the diagonal positioning of the St Matthew’s upper body, the highlighting of the hair and fingers, are all very reminiscent of Caravaggio, who was at the time regarded as Reni’s artistic adversary.
Here you see the aged-looking Evangelist being seemingly inspired by the angel who is communicating the verses of the gospel to him via an almost hypnotic gaze rather than any spoken word. However, the angel’s hand gesture appears to be indicating direct speech, which St Matthew records with the quill on the blank pages of his book.
This small work (85 x 68cm) caught the attention of several private collectors who wanted it for their private collections and so Reni made with his own hand a number of copies of the original picture, which is in the collection of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. The version that is in the Pinacoteca, Vatican, differs from the original only in its greater use of impasto and darker tones, typical of his later works.
Just a beautiful and mesmerizing piece of art……