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Study of a prophet / Human figure with a child
Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)
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Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)

Cento, Ferrara (Italy), 1591 - Bologna (Italy), 1666

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Study of a prophet / Human figure with a child

Ca. 1627. Pencil, Grey-brown ink on dark yellow paper.
Not on display

This drawing was first identified by Manuela Mena Marqués as a preparatory study for Prophet Jeremiah, one of a group of six prophets painted in fresco by Guercino for the cupola of Piacenza’s cathedral in 1627. Sir Denis Mahon, the renowned Guercino scholar, had separately noted other studies relating to the same commission, including some related to the figure of Jeremiah.

Commissioned by the bishop of Piacenza, the painting of the cathedral’s cupola was commenced in 1625 by Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli, known as Il Morazzone. The painter died suddenly early in 1627, having completed only two of the eight prophets: Isaiah and David. Consequently the commission was handed over to Guercino, who was invited to complete the remaining six prophets and the eight lunettes beneath them, four Stories from the life of Christ, eight Sibyls on the sides of the four windows and a frieze of putti located above the arched gallery.

A magnificent series of drapery studies relating to the commission is in the Koenig-Fachsenfeld collection at the Stuttgart Museum. Others were in the personal collection of Mahon (studies for Aggeus and for Jeremiah), and others are presently at Windsor Castle, United Kingdom (for Zachariah), in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan (Ezekiel), and in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Besançon, France (Micheas).

As mentioned above, a number of surviving drawings exist for the Jeremiah, displaying significant variations in relation to the Prado drawing, as well to the eventual fresco in Piacenza. In particular, one of the two Mahon drawings, though executed in pen and ink, shows an old man with arms raised and without a turban. Another study, belonging to the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica in Rome, reveals enough variations to more closely identify the figure with the Micheas. The drawing that is most closely related to the Prado study is in a private collection; despite the differing medium chosen, in this case black pencil and white chalk, it too shows the prophet holding in his left hand a tablet instead of a scroll, as Guercino eventually chose for his fresco. Moreover, in both studies the positioning of the legs is the same as in the fresco, whilst in the Prado study the angel with open wings situated beneath Jeremiah is drawn as a putto to the right of the prophet.

If Saint Agnes of the 1650s represents an excellent example of Guercino’s use of red chalk, this drawing displays an equal mastery of the pen, here used with a dark, corrosive ink known as ferrogallico (iron gall ink) -frequently used by the master- revealing his interest in the contrast of light and shadow, and its ability to render richer colouristic modulations. The freely drawn, overlapping lines confidently give form to the delightfully foreshortened figure, which is viewed from below, amply demonstrating the artist’s skill.

On the verso of the sheet the artist has sketched a female figure with a turban, and a child (Farina, V.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain´s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 160).


Technical data

Inventory number
Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)
Study of a prophet / Human figure with a child
Ca. 1627
Pencil; Grey-brown ink
Dark yellow paper
Height: 234 mm; Width: 198 mm
Bequest of Pedro Fernández Durán y Bernaldo de Quirós, 1931

Bibliography +

Mena Marqués, Manuela, Problemas relativos a los dibujos atribuidos a Guercino en el Museo del Prado, Boletín del Museo del Prado, I, 1980, pp. 23-38.

Mena Marqués, Manuela, Catalogo de Dibujos.Vol.VI. Dibujos Italianos del Siglo XVII, Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid, 1983, pp. 102-103.

Farina,V, Guercino 'Study of a prophet with an angel' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 160.

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pedro Fernández Durán, 1931. Núm. 327.

Inscriptions +

Lugt, 2.862
Printmaking. Front

PFD [Anagrama de Pedro Fernández Durán]
Printmaking. Passepartout

Printmaking. Passepartout

Exhibitions +

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Dibujos Boloñeses
04.03.2003 - 25.05.2003

Update date: 04-11-2021 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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