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The dramatic altarpiece of St. Michael Archangel – on permanent display at the beautiful Church of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception – has a secret. Cardinal Giovanni Battista Pamphili, later known as Pope Innocent X, had no sympathy for Guido Reni (one of the most admired painters of the time) and used to discredit him publicly. Reni was aware of this and promised to take revenge.

The opportunity came in 1631 when Cardinal Farnese commissioned the famous painting. Reni did not hesitate to portray the devil trampled by the Archangel with the worst lineaments of Pamphili. Later he justified himself by admitting that he merely gave expression to a dream-apparition and that the resemblance was a “supernatural” coincidence.

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