Lot 38
  • 38

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Il Guercino

18,000 - 22,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Il Guercino
  • Caricatures: peasants in a crowd, in profile to the right
  • Pen and brown ink


Miss Carla Davin,
her sale and others, London, Christie's, 25 June 1968, lot 163,
purchased by a European private collector,
by inheritance to the present owner


Bologna, Museo Civico Archeologico, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, Il Guercino, 1591-1666, I Disegni (catalogue by Sir Denis Mahon), 1992, p. 300, no. 194, reproduced

Catalogue Note

As a Bolognese artist, active in the first half of the 17th century, it comes as little surprise that Guercino wholeheartedly embraced the concept of caricatura, as he finely demonstrates in the present work, an artistic tradition which undoubtedly permeated down to him from the highly influential Carracci studio, which was itself widely recognized as having been the creative melting pot from which caricature in Western art originated, in the mid 1580s.

The present drawing, which depicts a crowd of peasants, seen head and shoulders, in profile to the right, is a typical example of Guercino's economical, yet highly effective use of the pen and brown ink medium.  He has chosen to portray the faces of those standing in the front row, in their varying degrees of age and physical stature, whilst indicating the presence of the remaining crowd through an assortment of cursory strokes, which cleverly allude to the heads of both the balding men and veiled women seen in the foreground.

While establishing a chronology for Guercino's caricature drawings is rather difficult, it is more straightforward to contextualize them through the presence of comparable works.  In this instance there are two drawings in particular that are closely comparable, both in their subject matter and execution.  The first of these is a caricature drawing depicting Five male heads in a row,1 in the Royal Collection at Windsor, in which a similar, balding and mustachioed male figure to that on the left side of the present work can be seen.  The second drawing that deserved to be mentioned in this context is in the collection of the Biblioteca Nacional, Brazil, and portrays a Review of clergymen.2  Here the artist has once again depicted the faces of those at the front of the composition, whilst indicating the presence of further figures in the rows behind, with similar irreverent dashes of brown ink, much like those found in the offered work.

1. D. Mahon and N. Turner, The Drawings of Guercino in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, Cambridge 1989, p. 121, no. 342, reproduced fig. 307 

2. Biblioteca Nacional, Brazil, inv. no. 743.43