Guido beyond the Cenci
Melville was keenly interested in other works by Guido than the so-called Beatrice Cenci. On his visit to London in 1849 he took note of Guido’s St. John Preaching in the Wilderness at the Dulwich Gallery and his Massacre of the Innocents at the National Gallery, now thought to have been painted by Raphael (NN J 20, 42, 362-63). In Redburn in 1850 he described a fanciful London palace in which “you spied in a crimson dawn, Guido’s ever youthful Apollo, driving forth the horses of the sun” (NN R 228). This passage reads very much like an allusion to the celebrated fresco in which Guido’s Aurora leads the horses of Apollo across the ceiling of the Rospigliosi gallery in Rome (NN J 109), but Melville had submitted the manuscript of Redburn to his English and American publishers before sailing to London in October 1849, so he must already have become aware of that work in New York through his reading or from seeing a tolerable copy of it in a print shop or gallery.
During his visit to London in 1849, Melville saw one painting by Guido that would have been stamped strongly in his imagination even though he did not specifically mention it in his journal. The one painting by Guido that Melville would have seen among the “superb paintings” in the private gallery of Samuel Rogers on December 19 and again on December 22 was Ecce Homo, now known as Head of Christ Crowned with Thorns (fig. 3; Pepper, cat. 87). This canvas may be a copy of one of several versions of this subject painted by Guido, but when Melville saw it in 1849 it was considered to be one of the “gems” of Rogers’s collection. Anna Jameson in 1844 had called it "an epitome of the mind and manner of the painter" (no. 20, p. 390). Guido's Head of Christ is one of the works that Rogers bequeathed to the National Gallery in 1855, and Melville is likely to have seen this painting again, along with Titian’s Noli me Tangere, in April 1857, a few weeks after having seen Guido’s Aurora and the Beatrice Cenci in Rome and his Samson Victorious and many other Guidos in Bologna (NN J 107, 108, 116, 499; Cowen, 11: 344-50; Valery, 240-41).