Reni’s Charity

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“Charity,” by the Italian Guido Reni, at the Met in New York, is stop-in-your-tracks beautiful. I certainly found myself rooted to the ground, when I visited last September. Reni’s vision of idealized female beauty draws you in; everything seems to revolve around her — even the multi-racial children she nurses who are awake look into her eyes, to catch her attention — but I think the real source of attraction lies outside the idealized features: the hint of a cleft chin, the first signs of loosening hair, the serene but distant gaze. Is that a looking at, or a looking for?

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