This group of paintings is the work of artists who experienced in different ways the innovation of the art of Caravaggio at a crucial moment for painting in Emilia when most production was lent to antiprotestant religious propaganda.
Protagonist of the painting by Giovanni Lanfranco is St Agatha, a martyr who lived at the beginning of the III century, here represented in prison while St Peter appears bearing a miraculous unguent to heal her wounds; light comes from a torch carried by an angel. The pictorial account, described with an essential and touching narrative language reflects the naturalism of the Carracci brothers, as can be seen on the upper floor of this wing of the gallery, but which here is based on an incisive luminous choice deriving from Caravaggio.
The five paintings by Leonello Spada, who spent time with the Maestro during his time in both Rome and Malta, also reflect this language. Particularly scenographic is the Judith and Holofernes, a frequent subject in the followers of the Lombard painter beyond the Alps.
Of intense narrative efficiency is, instead, Susanna and the Old Men painted by Guercino in 1642 for Count Paolo Parisetti of Reggio, a famous collector of Emilian paintings from the ‘600. The subject shows the scene where the chaste maiden becomes the object of desire of two dissolute old men who, hiding in the garden while she was bathing, hatch a plot to possess her.