The imaginative process required in inventing finished scenes of this type, which are in many ways more like paintings than drawings in terms of their function and composition, is totally different from the experimental genesis of Guercino’s figure studies, yet just as demanding of the artist’s fecund imagination. Here, Guercino has drawn a fully finished view in pen and brown ink, his favourite media for such drawings. The light is skilfully suggested, creating and diversifying the space within the scene and defining a variety of different planes. The strong contrasts, especially in the darker buildings, are offset by the wide space in the foreground, where the white of the paper is brilliantly exploited by Guercino with his extraordinary sense of light. The different planes and various elements are fused into a very harmonious composition, which seems to be drawn without any hesitation.
These grand landscape drawings by Guercino are difficult to date, as they manifest an attachment to the countryside, and to the natural world, that remained with the artist throughout his life. One possible clue is, though, provided by one of the outstanding group of landscape drawings by Guercino in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, the Landscape with a winding road leading up to the gate of a town, a drawing that is very similar to the present work in terms of the use of the media and the approach to light and shade, which bears a dating of 1635 on the verso.2
The mention, on the 19th-century label on the back of the frame, that this drawing comes from the collection of the Earl of Gainsborough raises the possibility that although it does not bear his mark, the drawing may have been part of the very important group of Guercino’s drawings brought to England in the 18th century by John Bouverie (c. 1722-1750), whose collection is often associated with the very best of Guercino’s drawings. On two different visits to Italy during the 1740s, Bouverie acquired substantial numbers of drawings by Guercino, including an entire album purchased from the Abbé Bonducci in Florence, drawings which originated directly from the Gennari family, who had in turn acquired them from Guercino himself.
We are most grateful to Nicolas Turner for confirming the attribution from a digital image.
1. D. Mahon and N. Turner, The Drawings of Guercino in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, Cambridge 1989, p. 101
2. Ibid., p. 107, no. 247, reproduced fig. 231
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