Francesco Barbieri, called IL GUERCINO

Salome Visiting St. John the Baptist in Prison

Oil on Canvas
75 x 96 cm
29 ½ x 38 in

Private Collection, Paris
Private Collection, England
This recently reappeared painting has increased to five the number of versions of this composition that have, by various scholars, been attributed to Guercino. The existence of further versions, unanimously considered later copies, attests to the contemporary success of this invention.
Until the present painting’s discovery, only one version (New York, private collection – formerly, London Sotheby’s, sale 8 April, 1981) was thought by all the qualified scholars to be fully autograph.
Now, these same scholars are equally in agreement in accepting this version as a work by Guercino. They are:

Sir Denis Mahon
Dr. Erich Schleier
Prof. Mina Gregori
Prof. Andrea Emiliani
Dr. David M. Stone

Dr. Nicholas Turner has paid particular attention to the discovery, in radiograph, of an underlying, and fully-realized, composition of St. Matthew and the Angel, clearly also a work by the young artist.
Mr. Keith Christiansen has confirmed the attribution on the basis of photographs submitted to him by Dr. Stone.
All agree on dating the present painting to ca. 1619.
Artist Biography:
Soon recognized as a prodigy, Guercino came to Bologna from his native Cento, a provincial Aemilian town, when still a very young man. Inevitably gravitating to the Carracci studio, he nonetheless was unable to collaborate with Agostino once Annibale and Lodovico had moved to Rome.

Guercino himself followed them to the Eternal City in May 1621, shortly after the election of his Bolognese patron, Alessandro Ludovisi, as Pope Gregory XV. During this pope’s brief reign (9 February 1621 – 8 July 1623), Guercino enjoyed the confidence of the Ludovisi family and competed successfully for great Roman commissions – a fact made all the more remarkable given the artist’s youthfulness and provincial training. These commissions included the altarpiece for S. Peter’s (The Burial of St. Petronilla, Rome, Pinacoteca Capitolina) and the Aurora fresco in the Casino of the Villa Ludovisi.

Not long after the pope’s death the, now celebrated, artist returned to Bologna to carry on a successful career catering to a host of important ecclesiastical and noble patrons, predominantly in north-central Italy. By the 1630’s, Guercino’s youthful style of bold, innovative compositions and dramatically-lit, almost nocturnal, effects, slowly evolved towards a more studied, ‘classical’ manner, possibly influenced by his compatriot, Reni. Despite this, Guercino was never to lose his interest in portraying more truthfully the world around him. His later paintings are characterized by a more even distribution of light, balanced frieze-like figural arrangements and a softer, warmer palette. Not surprisingly, however, the earlier works (dating ca. 1618-1623) have traditionally been more highly prized by collectors and connoisseurs.

Guercino was also an enormously gifted and prolific draftsman. Many of his drawings were engraved and found wide distribution throughout Europe.
Francesco Barbieri, called IL GUERCINO - Salome Visiting St. John the Baptist in Prison
Full Screen
Print Format
Contact us
Back To List