CARLO CIGNANI and FELICE CIGNANI
Bologna 1628-Forlì 1719 and Bologna 1658-1724
oil on canvas, 114×130 cm
This painting bears witness to the success of Carlo Cignani, one of the most influential painters of the Seventeenth century. His paintings were immensely popular and were copied many times by his very active workshop, as in the case of this version, a more decorative and serene interpretation of the formula expressed by the master in the painting on the same subject which is part of a private collection in Bologna (see B. Buscaroli Fabbri, Carlo Cignani, affreschi, dipinti, disegni, Milan, 1991, ed. 2004, no. 32, p. 151). The painting presented here also differs from the latter in that the group of personalities is immersed in a landscape. According to Emilio Negro, author of a study on the work, it is attributable to the father with the help of his son Felice “who was his first workshop assistant”. It may in fact be observed that the face of this Charity, seen in profile, is very similar to that of the angel of the annunciation painted by Felice Cignani in the Annunciation fresco executed by him in San Giacomo Maggiore a Bologna.
According to tradition, Charity is represented by a young girl who takes care of three children. In his famous Iconology Ripa (1603) describes Charity as “a woman wearing a red dress” who “will be holding a boy in her left arm, nursing him, while another two will be playing at her feet”. The three children, according to this author, “demonstrate that even if Charity is a single virtue, its power is nevertheless threefold”.