146
146
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called il Guercino
AN ALLEGORY OF MATRIMONY: A FEMALE NUDE LYING ON A BED, SEEN FROM THE BACK, TALKING TO A BIRD IN A CAGE
Estimate
40,00060,000
JUMP TO LOT
146
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called il Guercino
AN ALLEGORY OF MATRIMONY: A FEMALE NUDE LYING ON A BED, SEEN FROM THE BACK, TALKING TO A BIRD IN A CAGE
Estimate
40,00060,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Old Master Drawings including the Collection of Professor Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann

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New York

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called il Guercino
CENTO 1591 - 1666 BOLOGNA
AN ALLEGORY OF MATRIMONY: A FEMALE NUDE LYING ON A BED, SEEN FROM THE BACK, TALKING TO A BIRD IN A CAGE

Provenance

Thomas Banks (L.2423)

Catalogue Note

A symbolic subject, surely derived from a popular motto, this drawing is the only known example of the theme in Guercino’s œuvre, painted or drawn.  The bird in the cage symbolizes the marriage, while temptation and pleasure of love, outside, are personified by an anonymous, naked young woman lying on a bed, her head resting on a high pillow but her face hidden, apparently conversing with an imprisoned and subdued bird. 
This type of drawing can be associated with the artist’s picturesque and genre studies, which were executed for his own amusement and that of his immediate family and friends, never seeming to relate to any of his painted works.  This subtle and beautiful drawing could easily have been done to amuse a friend, or even as a present.  Guercino’s fascinating and often amusing drawings of this type bear witness to the artist’s wit and sensibility, and reveal his profound interest in everyday life and people around him. 

Stylistically, the drawing must date from around the mid to late 1630s.  The secure handling of the red chalk testifies to the great mastery in the use of this versatile medium that is evident throughout Guercino’s drawn œuvre.  Red chalk was often the artist’s medium of choice, as it permitted an extraordinary variety of tonal effects, especially in the rendering of the flesh tones, and could be used with different intensity to create infinitely varied nuances, emphasizing areas of light and shadow. In the present sheet Guercino has harnessed his chalk to create the finest variations of tonality, combined with a subtle and delicate sfumato, which is skilfully used all around the female body, to enhance the luminosity of the flesh.

Guercino's technical skills in all media are remarkable, as is his understanding of the power of the white surface of the paper, which he frequently used to great effect in creating his lighting schemes.  In fact, as we can see in the present drawing, the female body is mostly defined by the white of the paper, emerging from the warm tonality of the red chalk, with all possible variations and different degrees of intensity.  
Guercino used this same technique often, and also much earlier in his career, see for instance a sheet in the Ashmolean Museum: Two women conversing, a study from life executed in red chalk, with a similar strong use of the chiaroscuro, and a blocked out background.1  That drawing is dated by Turner and Plazzotta to 1621.  Works like these clearly show that although Guercino never attended the Carracci Academy, founded in around 1582 in Bologna, he was instrumental in carrying forward the lessons of the Carracci, learning from their examples the secrets of a highly naturalistic and expressive style, which he developed into his own very personal manner.

This handsome sheet was owned by the sculptor Thomas Banks (1735-1805), who created a good collection of Old Master drawings, which at his death was inherited by his only daughter, Mrs. Lavinia Forster.

1. Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, inv. no. KTP 864; see N. Turner and C. Plazzotta, Drawings by Guercino from British Collections, exh. cat., London, The British Museum, 1991, p. 206, no. 183, reproduced p. 209, fig. 183

Old Master Drawings including the Collection of Professor Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann

|
New York