Throughout his career, Guercino favoured the media of pen and brown ink and wash above all others. As is apparent from the present drawing, this technique permitted a fluency of line and rapidity of execution that suited his creative process perfectly. Although apparently quite finished, this is still very much a working drawing in which the artist is developing his ideas, and we see an interesting pentimento in the right hand of the figure of Pittura, who sits looking towards Scultura, the latter holding a statuette in her right hand.
In fact, Guercino’s compositions always emerge from a complex and continuing process of development and refinement, in which the arrangement of his figures can change radically, even apparently very late in the day. In the case of this composition, the key difference between the drawing and the final painting lies in the subtle relationship between the two figures, which here seems more intimate and less official than is the case in the final canvas, where Pittura, on the left of the composition, appears seated at her easel holding a brush and a palette. In the painted version both allegorical figures seem to have equal status, and the intriguing dynamic created by the slight sense of humility of Pittura in the face of Scultura that can be detected in the drawing is no longer present. A sketchy drawing for the figure of Pictura, in the same pose as her painted counterpart, is in the Teylers Museum, Haarlem.3
The present sheet was purchased in Italy by John Bouverie (c.1722-50), whose collector’s mark is often associated with the best of Guercino’s drawings (for another drawing probably with the same provenance, see lot 70). An enthusiastic traveller, Bouverie died in Turkey in 1750, at the age of only 27, but during his short life he took full advantage of his travels to collect antiquities, paintings and most of all drawings. While making his Grand Tour, principally through Italy, at some point before 1742, Bouverie was able to acquire a large number of drawings, including an entire album of sheets by Guercino purchased from the 'Abbé Bonducci' in Florence, which came directly from the Gennari family, probably from Filippo Antonio Gennari.4 But given the large number of drawings by Guercino that were ultimately owned by Bouverie, he clearly also acquired more drawings by the artist when he was in Italy again in 1745-46, this time most probably from Francesco Forni. As Prisco Bagni pointed out, Francesco seems to have been the son of Antonio Forni, the leading dealer in Old Master drawings in Bologna.5
1. Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini, inv. no. 0813
2. B. Ghelfi, Il Libro dei conti del Guercino, 1629-1666, Venice 1997, pp. 91-92, note 171
3. C. van Tuyll van Serooskerken, Guercino (1591-1666), Drawings from Dutch Collections, exhib. cat., Haarlem, Teylers Museum, 1991, p. 106, no. 39, reproduced
4. N. Turner and C. Plazzotta, Drawings by Guercino from British Collections, exhib. cat., London, British Museum, 1991, p. 22
5. P. Bagni, Il Guercino e il suo falsario, I Disegni di Figura, Bologna 1990, p. 12
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