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Two Biblical Scenes from Palazzo Lancellotti

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Lot and his Daughters Leaving Sodom and Susannah and the Elders are two works by Guido Reni, both of which depict biblical scenes containing three figures. They are of similar size, and are painted in a horizontal format with dark backgrounds. The two were first recorded in the Palazzo Lancellotti, Rome, in 1640, where they hung together as companion pieces until they were respectively acquired by the National Gallery in 1844.

Upon their acquisition the works were considered to be a pair, given their similarly moralising subject matter, size, and location in the Palazzo Lancellotti. However, cleaning revealed brushwork that suggests the paintings were created in different periods of Reni’s career, and were not made to hang together.

Because the two Old Testament subjects illustrate feminine vice and virtue, the pairing would seem to be deliberate. It’s possible that Reni painted Susannah and the Elders to accompany his earlier work, but it’s similarly plausible that the pairing was made by a collector much later.

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