Lot 19
  • 19

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Guercino

100,000 - 150,000 USD
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  • Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Guercino
  • Saint Luke
  • inscribed on the reverse of the original canvas: del Guercino da Cento donato all'Em. mo Sachetti l'anno 1631 dal d. to Pittore ("by Guercino of Cento, given to His Eminence Sachetti in the year 1631 by the said painter")

  • oil on canvas


Probably commissioned from the artist by Cardinal Bernardino Spada, Bologna, 1631;
Cardinal Giulio Sacchetti, Ferrara; 1631;
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 8 December 1989, lot 127;
There purchased by the present owner.


London, Richard Feigen, Italian Paintings, 12 June-27 July 1990, no. 10.


MS Libro dei conti of Cardinal Bernardino Spada; Rome, Archivio di Stato, Fondo Spada, vol. 820, fol. 613, to the left (entry from 1 July 1631); cited in M. T. Dirani, "Mecenati, pittori e mercanti dell'arte nel Seicento," Ricerche di storia dell'arte 16 (1982), p. 88 (320 lire misread as 320 scudi);
MS Libro dei conti of Guercino; Bologna, Biblioteca Comunale dell'Archiginnasio (entry from 8 July 1631); published in J.A. Calvi, Notizie della vita e delle opere del...Guercino, Bologna, 1808, p. 63, and in Malvasia, infra, 1841, II, p. 309;
C. C. Malvasia, Felsina Pittrice, Bologna 1678, II, p. 368; Bologna 1841, II, p. 262;
D. Mahon, Il Guercino: Catalogo critico dei dipinti, exhibition catalogue, Bologna 1968, p. 155, under no. 65;
L. Salerno, I dipinti del Guercino, Rome 1988, pp. 217, 226, under nos. 123 bis, 132;
S. Loire, "Etudes récentes sur Le Guerchin", in Storia dell'Arte, no. 67, 1989, p. 275;
D. Stone, Guercino:  Catalogo completo, Florence 1991, pp. 146-7, cat. no. 125, reproduced;
B. Ghelfi (ed.), Il libro dei conti del Guercino, Bologna 1997, p. 61, no. 35.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com , an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This painting may have been fairly recently cleaned, varnished and retouched. The lining is old and what appears to be the original inscription on the original canvas has been allowed to remain visible with a small window in the lining. The paint layer is quite visibly cracked and if there is any restoration to be done, it may well be to change the lining and allow the painting to have a less cracked surface. The retouches are in areas that are to be expected; the beard and the hair have developed some thinness over time and there is some cracking and slight thinness in the face which may have received small retouches, particularly in the shadows to the right, beneath the nose, and in the eyes. There is some thinness also in the document in the lower right. The picture could be hung as is but it is the lining which is weak here. Nonetheless, the paint layer is stable.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

In his account of Guercino's life, Malvasia records that in 1631 Cardinal Bernardino Spada, papal legate in Bologna from 1627-31, sent two gentlemen to collect a portrait of the Cardinal himself, as well as a St. Luke the Evangelist, "Eminentissimo Card. Spada Legato di Bologna lo mandò à levare per due Gentiluomini, perchè facesse il suo ritratto, come fece, & anco un S. Luca Evangelista".1 The commission is believed to have been made in 1631, as a payment of 80 scudi (320 lire) for a St. Luke and a half-length portrait of the Cardinal is recorded in the account books of both Spada and Guercino in early July of that year, "Dall'Emo. Sig. Cardinale Spada per il suo Ritratto fatto a Bologna mezza figura et per il san Luca si è ricevuto in tutto = Scudi 80" .2  Given the fact that 50 scudi was Guercino's normal price for a half-length portrait at the time, the St. Luke must have cost 30 scudi, Guercino's price for a bust-length figure.

The portrait remained in the Spada collection, and still hangs in the Galleria Spada in Rome (see Literature, Salerno 1988, cat. no. 132). However, the Saint Luke never seems to have entered the collection at all, and was presumed lost.  It was only after the present work appeared at sale in 1989 (see Provenance) that it became identifiable as the Spada St. Luke, a conclusion based not only on its recorded scale and format appropriate to the price paid (30 scudi), but also on its style which corresponds closely to that of the Portrait of Cardinal Spada of 1631.3  Moreover, the identification of the figure as St. Luke is confirmed by the text he is reading, which is from the Vulgate version of the Gospel of St. Luke.4

The identification of the present St. Luke with the picture commissioned by Spada would explain the curious fact that it never entered his collection in Bologna, since according to the inscription on the verso, this picture was given in that year to Cardinal Giulio Sacchetti, who was then papal legate in nearby Ferrara.  Although the inscription also states this work was given to Sacchetti by Guercino, it may have been a gift from Spada to Sacchetti, delivered by the artist at Spada's request.  Given that the respective legateships of Spada in Bologna and Sacchetti in Ferrara ended at the same time, shortly after payment for the Spada St. Luke was made on 1 July 1631, it is possible that these events may explain the gift of a painting. Giulio Sacchetti himself assumed the papal legateship of Bologna in 1637, and like Spada, was an important early patron of Guercino.  In addition to the present work, Sacchetti owned Guercino's Jacob Blessing Joseph's Sons (Salerno, op. cit., no. 66); two pictures of St. John the Baptist commissioned from the artist (idem., cat. nos. 349, 350); and Cleopatra Before Augustus (idem., cat. no. 184).

1. see Literature, Malvasia 1678.
2. see Literature, Ghelfi 1997.
3. see Literature, Stone 1991, p. 147.
4. But they  were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, "Why are you troubled?  And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I myself.  Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have." When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. (The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Nashville 1982, p. 1030).