Atalanta and Hippomenes: Guido Reni

Guido Reni (1575 – 1642) was one of the most famous Italian Baroque painters of his time.

The Baroque style originated in Rome in the early seventeenth century and quickly spread to the rest of Europe. Typical characteristics of the art movement included strong contrasts of light and dark, ornate detail and a sense of drama. It was closely connected to the Counter-Reformation religious movement as the Catholic Church realised the potential for art to influence religious beliefs. The Church set official guidelines for artists, encouraging them to create realistic, yet often grandiose, religious works which ordinary people could relate to.

Although the majority of Reni’s paintings addressed religious themes, he also painted several mythological scenes, including Atalanta and Hippomenes. I first saw this beautiful painting in the Prado museum and was recently reminded of it by a book I have been dipping in an out of for months! Painted between 1618 – 1619, it is without a doubt my favourite work by Reni.

Here is the extract from the book: ‘In the myth, Atalanta was a swift-running huntress who was determined to keep her virginity and refused to mate with any man who could not outrun her in a foot race. Nobody could, until she was challenged by Hippomenes, who had been provided with three golden apples by the interfering goddess Aphrodite. At intervals in their race, Hippomenes would drop an apple, which Atalanta could not resist; picking them up delayed her so much that she lost both the race and her virginity.’ (Robert Huges, Rome, London, 2011)

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