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Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)

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

Born in a town halfway between Ferrara and Bologna, Barbieri soon received the nickname "Il Guercino" owing to his squint ("quercio" in Italian means cross-eyed). He was chiefly self taught in a particularly rich artistic environment: by studying the altar paintings of Ludovico Carracci, which he was able to see in Cento or Bologna, he introduced a vehement dynamism and fluidity of execution into his works. However, the paintings produced in this early stage in his career also display elements of Venetian tradition filtered through Scarsellino of Ferrara and reinforced by a sojourn in Venice in 1618. As a result of the foregoing, he developed a highly personal naturalistic style that attained maturity between 1619 and 1620 and earned him a fame that greatly surpassed the local environment, especially after he received commissions from religious institutions and from cardinals Ludovisi in Bologna, and Serra in Ferrara, until he was summoned to Rome in 1621 by the new pope, Gregory XV. In the Eternal City he painted the ceiling of the Ludovisi Casino with the theme of Dawn, whose Baroque sense of space and extraordinary pictorial freedom earned him widespread admiration. This success was followed by the creation of a great altar painting in 1623 for St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, "The Burial of Saint Petronilla", which displays the first signs of a radical shift towards a much more classical aesthetic influenced by the example of Domenichino's works and the artistic theories of Agucchi. On returning to Cento following the death of the pope in 1623, he embraced new classicist ideas akin to Guido Reni, tempering his painterly impetus. He produced many paintings, with the assistance of a large workshop, owing to the numerous commissions received from all over Italy, and even from other countries. When Guido Reni died in 1642 Guercino moved to Bologna, filling the vacancy of head of the school. The final stage in his career saw the emergence of details and refinements that herald the graceful style of the 18th century. An indefatigable draughtsman -at his death there were thousands of drawings by his hand in his workshop- Guercino bequeathed to posterity a huge amount of paintings which on account of their abundance, diversity and sincere depth of emotion deserve a place beside those of the greatest 17th-century artists, as acknowledged by his contemporaries (Luna, J. J.: From Titian to Goya. Great Masters of the Museo del Prado, National Art Museum of China-Shanghai Museum, 2007, pp. 387-388).

Artworks (17)

The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine
Oil on canvas, XVII century
Guercino (Copy)
Tiziano y la Pintura o El Dibujo y la Pintura
Oil on canvas, XVII century
Guercino (Copy after)
Susannah and the Elders
Oil on canvas, 1617
Saint Peter freed by an Angel
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1622
San Jerónimo y un rabino
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1622
Saint Augustine meditating on the Trinity
Oil on canvas, 1636
Penitent Magdalen
Oil on canvas, 1645 - 1649
Saint John the Baptist
Oil on canvas, 1645 - 1670
Guercino (Copy after)
Cupid spurning Riches
Oil on canvas, Ca. 1654


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