Guercino (1591–1666) – short career of the Pope’s chosen one in Rome

Guercino, fresco Aurora, Casino Ludovisi

Guercino, fresco Aurora, Casino Ludovisi

This self-taught painter, who began his career in Bologna and quickly became one of the leading painters of the so-called Bologna school, was also noticed and appreciated in Rome. His real name was Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, but the nickname Guercino (cross-eyed) stuck to him, due to his vision impairment, which in no way impeded his painting abilities. He was the favorite painter of the Bolognese pope – Gregory XV, who after assuming to throne of St. Peter in 1621, called him to his court, along with his nephew – the indispensable nepot and a great lover of art – Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, who utilized Guercino’s talent employing him to decorate buildings which he funded.
Guercino, fresco Aurora, Casino Ludovisi
Guercino, Casino Ludovisi, fresco Aurora
Guercino, The Funeral of St. Petronilla, Pinacoteca Capitolina
Guercino, Persian Sybil, Pinacoteca Capitolina
Guercino, Cleopatra and Octavian, Pinacoteca Capitolina
Guercino, St. Matthew with an Angel, Pinacoteca Capitolina
Guercino, The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Pinacoteca Vaticana
Guercino, St. Mary Magdalene, Pinacoteca Vaticana
Guercino, Arcadian Shepherds – Et in Arcadia ego, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini
Guercino, The Flagellation of Christ, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini
Guercino, Saul Attacking David, Pinacoteca Capitolina
Guercino, portrait of Cardinal Bernardino Spada, Galleria Spada
Guercino, The Holy Trinity, Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria
Guercino, frescoes in the dome of the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria
Guercino, St. Augustine, St. John the Baptist and St. Paul the Hermit, Basilica of Sant’Agostino
Guercino, St. Peter, Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Venezia
Guercino, Venus with Cupid, 1632, Accademia Nazionale di San Luca
Guercino, Casino Ludovisi, Stanza del Caminetto, one of the paintings of the ceiling
Guercino, Casino Ludovisi, Fame accompanied by the personifications of Honor and Virtue, paintings of  the first floor
This self-taught painter, who began his career in Bologna and quickly became one of the leading painters of the so-called Bologna school, was also noticed and appreciated in Rome. His real name was Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, but the nickname Guercino (cross-eyed) stuck to him, due to his vision impairment, which in no way impeded his painting abilities. He was the favorite painter of the Bolognese pope – Gregory XV, who after assuming to throne of St. Peter in 1621, called him to his court, along with his nephew – the indispensable nepot and a great lover of art – Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, who utilized Guercino’s talent employing him to decorate buildings which he funded.
 

At that time in Rome, Domenichino was considered a master of unparalleled skill. An attempt to compete with him turned out to be successful, as a year after arriving at the Eternal City Guercino presented his fresco Aurora (Casino Ludovisi). In it Guercino topped Domenichino’s classical style with expression, movement and exceptional coloring, but especially quadrature used in an expert way, which allowed him for almost equilibristic perspective foreshortenings. He also turned out to be a worthy competitor to Guido Reni himself, who had worked on the same theme a few years earlier at Casino dell’Aurora.

In time Guercino became one of the most significant Baroque artists of the first half of the XVII century, an author of frescos, altar paintings, private masterpieces and drawings. He was able to display his mastery in completing a monumental painting depicting the burial of the daughter of St. Peter – St. Petronilla. This painting, at first destined to adorn St. Peter’s Basilica (San Pietro in Vaticano) and completed at the commission of Gregory XV, can currently be found in the collections of the Capitoline Museums.

Initially Guercino’s paintings were based on definite chiaroscuro contrasts. However, after coming to Rome his style changed – a harmonious, almost Venetian coloring started to dominate, which was supplemented by perfect drawing.

Unfortunately after a short pontificate of Gregory XV the star of Guercino was extinguished and commissions stopped coming The procedure of papal favorites losing commissions at the moment of the death of their patron was something natural, that is why the next pope, Urban VIII, just as his predecessor had done, surrounded himself not only with new officials and nepots but also new artists who were to show the new direction of his pontificate, in the artistic dimension as well. Guercino left Rome and turned to painting trade, organizing an international shipping network. His workshop produced both altar paintings as well as those destined for private contemplation, on a mass scale. However, this did not mean that private Roman clients stopped ordering works or portraits from him, yet he no longer enjoyed papal patronage. His place by the side of the new Bishop of Rome was taken over by a young Pietro da Cortona, who did indeed set new trends in art.

 

The most valuable works of Guercino in Rome:

Galleria Doria Pamphilj

  •       Erminia finding the wounded Tancred (1618) – this beautiful Baroque painting depicting an episode from Jerusalem Delivered by Torquato Tasso, was painted by the artist before arriving in Rome; it is characterized by strong chiaroscuro effects and a typical for that time pathos and dramatism.
  •       Agnes on the Pyre (1653)

Musei Capitolini – Pinacoteka Capitolina

  •     The Funeral of St. Petronilla (1623)
  •       Persian Sibyl (approx. 1647)
  •       Cleopatra and Octavian (1640)
  •       Saint Matthew with an Angel (approx. 1623)

Casino Ludovisi

  •       Frescos in rooms on the ground and first floors (1622)

Galleria Borghese

  •       The Return of the Prodigal Son (1628) – one of the many versions of the theme often depicted by the painter

Musei Vaticani-Pinacoteca Vaticana

 
  •       The Incredulity of St. Thomas (1621)
  •       The Repentance of Saint Mary Magdalene (1622)

Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini

  •       Arcadian Shepherds – Et in Arcadia ego (1618-1622)
  •       The Flagellation of Christ(1657)
  •       Saul attacking David

Galleria Spada

  •       Death of Dido (1631)
  •       Portrait of Cardinal Bernardino Spada
  •       Mary Magdalene penitent

Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria

  •       Holy Trinity
  •       Frescos in the church dome

Church of Sant’Agostino

  •       Saint Augustine, St. John the Baptist and St. Paul the Hermit

Church of San Pietro in Vincoli

  •       Saint Margaret