Lot 48
  • 48

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Il Guercino

30,000 - 40,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Il Guercino
  • St. John the Baptist seated in the wilderness
  • Red chalk


Sir Robert Witt (L.2228b);
European private collector,
by inheritance to the present owner

Catalogue Note

This characteristic red chalk study by Guercino, depicting a seated St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness, seems on stylistic grounds to date to circa 1625-30. Though the subject was one that Guercino is known to have treated on a number of occasions throughout his career, the majority of his most accomplished paintings of St. John date to the 1640s and 1650s, with particularly fine examples in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna,1 and the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome.2

The present work shows St. John full-length, seated, with his eyes upraised to heaven as he holds his characteristic scroll in his right hand.  Both the facial type and the energetic handling of the medium appear very close to a number of red chalk drawings associated with Guercino’s decoration of the cupola of the Cathedral at Piacenza, a project on which the artist worked from 1626-27.3  The composition of the drawing, with trees visible in the background, does, however, suggest that this work was intended for a painting of the subject rather than a fresco, though at present it has not been possible to connect it securely with a known painting from the same period.  What is clear, though, is the wonderfully characteristic handling, which enables Guercino to create shadow and light, sculptural form and recession, and perhaps most importantly emotion, with the most astonishing economy of medium.

1. D. Stone, Guercino: Catalogo completo dei dipinti, Florence 1991, p. 192, no. 175, reproduced

2. Ibid., p. 286, no. 278, reproduced

3. Two sold New York, Sotheby's, 29 January 2014, lot 67 and London, Sotheby's, 9 July 2014, lot 22