Guido Reni was the most famous Italian painter of his time, and his gift as a creator of religious images was unsurpassed. The idealized figures he painted, as well as the harmony, color, and sentiment of his work, made his name synonymous with grace and beauty. In the mid-16th century, as part of the Catholic Church's new stance to combat Protestantism and propagate the Catholic faith, images of saints and holy figures were humanized and made more psychologically and emotionally accessible. In order to heighten the empathy between viewer and image, artists commonly depicted saints in a more direct and intimate format, eliminating complex attributes of iconography. James the Greater, one of the 12 apostles and brother of John the Evangelist, was among the circle of men closest to Christ. James was present with Peter and John at the Transfiguration and again at the Agony in the Garden, when Jesus retired to the Mount of Olives to pray just before His arrest. Here, James is shown as Christ's apostle: bearded, with his dark hair parted and falling on either side in the manner of Christ, and with the pilgrim's staff.

Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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Guido Reni, Italian (Bolognese), 1575–1642
Saint James the Greater
c. 1636–1638
Oil on canvas
52 1/8 × 38 7/8 in. (132.3 × 98.8 cm) Frame: 65 1/2 × 51 1/8 × 4 in. (166.4 × 129.8 × 10.2 cm)
Credit Line

Museum purchase funded by the Agnes Cullen Arnold Accessions Endowment Fund

Current Location
The Audrey Jones Beck Building
Accession Number

King Louis Philippe of France (1773-1850); [Christie's, London, Christie's, May 21, 1853, lot 432]; [purchased by Nieuwenhuys]; Charles Scarisbrick (1800-1860), Scarisbrick Hall and Wrightington Hall, Lancashire; [Christie's, London, Scarisbrick sale, May 13, 1861, lot 241]; [purchased by Graves]; private collection, Ireland; [Christie's, London, December 9, 1988, lot 13]; [purchased by Richard L. Feigen, New York]; purchased by MFAH, 2002.