Guido and Beatrice Cenci
During the five weeks that Melville spent in Rome in 1857, he made no mention in his journal of having visited Guido’s Saint Cecilia paintings in Trastevere or Domenichino’s Cecilian Cycle at San Luigi del Francesi. But he was already thinking about Guido’s Beatrice Cenci during his first full day in the city. On the evening of February 26, after a strenuous day of sightseeing, he visited “a picture dealer” who “offered a Cenci for $4. Surprisingly cheap” (NN J 106). If Melville accepted that offer, the print he acquired is probably the copy of Vincent Biondi’s 1838 steel engraving of Saint Cecilia that is the subject of this entry. This print, now part of the William Reese Collection in the Melville Society Archive at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, had first surfaced in the exhibition Prints Collected by Herman Melville Lent by Mr. Samuel T. Sukel at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1950. Whether or not Melville purchased his “Cenci” from that first picture dealer in Rome, he did make it a point five days later to ride “to Palazzo Barberini to see Cenci.—Expression of suffering about the mouth—(appealing look of innocence) not caught in any copy or engraving” (NN J 108; see fig. 2).