Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

Master Works on Paper from Five Centuries

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 25. The head of a man in profile, looking up.

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Guercino

The head of a man in profile, looking up

Auction Closed

January 26, 04:31 PM GMT


150,000 - 180,000 USD

Lot Details


Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Guercino

Cento 1591 - 1666 Bologna

The head of a man in profile, looking up

Pen and brown ink and wash

178 by 178 mm; 7 by 7 in.

The family of the artist's nephews Benedetto and Cesare Gennari, Bologna, until after 1719 (their inscription in pen and brown ink, lower right: 10 Pr. Dol.);
Francesco Forni, Bologna;
John Bouverie (d. 1750);
thence by inheritance to his wife, Anne Bouverie (d. 1757);
thence by inheritance to her brother, John Hervey (d. 1764);
thence by inheritance to his son, Christopher Hervey (d. 1786);
thence by inheritance to his aunt, Elizabeth Bouverie (d. 1798);
thence by bequest to Sir Charles Middleton, later 1st Baron Barham (d. 1813);
thence by inheritance to his grandson, Charles Noel, later 1st Earl of Gainsborough (d. 1866);
Archibald G.B. Russell (1879-1955), London and Swanage (L. 2770a);
tis sale, London, Sotheby's, 22 May 1928, lot 60;
with Durlacher Brothers, London/New York, by 1928;
John Nicholas Brown, Providence, R.I.;
with David Tunick Inc., New York;
from whom acquired by Jeffrey E. Horvitz, Beverly Farms, Mass., in 1986,
his sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 23 January 2008, lot 50;
with Jean-Luc Baroni Ltd, London;
from whom acquired by the present owner.
A.G.B. Russell, Drawings by Guercino, London 1923, reproduced pl. XVII;
T. Borenius (anonymously), 'Drawings in the Collection of Mr Archibald G.B. Russell', in The Connoisseur, vol. LXVI, May 1923, pp. 3-12, reproduced p. 10, no. V;
H. Tietze, European Master Drawings in the United States, New York 1947, no. 56, reproduced;
D.M. Stone, Guercino, Master Draftsman: Works from North American Collections, exh. cat., Cambridge (Mass.) 1991, p. 233, no. 182, reproduced plate E.

The present study is a superb example of Guercino’s skill in rendering a powerful image from seemingly basic lines and broad wash taking full advantage of the surface of the paper resulting in strong and dramatic chiaroscuro. His mastery of media shines in this drawing of a man in profile, which is both subtle and intense, leaving an indelible impression on the viewer. Guercino expertly applies golden-brown wash, building not only form and features, but a real sense of character to his subject. The pen and ink lines are used to pick out details in the hair and to provide outline in the profile but here they are secondary to the wash which dominates the image and so cleverly brings this magnificent and poetic drawing to life. The head seen in profile fills almost the entire space of the sheet.

In Linda Wolk-Simon's entry on this drawing in the catalogue of the 1991-93 Horvitz Collection exhibition, she suggested that it has certain affinities with the kneeling St. Francis in Guercino's altarpiece of 1639-41, which depicts the Madonna and Child with Sts Francis and Clare (Parma, Galleria Nazionale).1  However, since the exhibition catalogue was published, an altarpiece by Guercino has come to light that may provide a stronger link. The pala in question, which was recorded by Malvasia but thought to have been lost, dates from 1663, and depicts the Madonna and Child appearing to Beato Marcolino Amanni di Forlì.2  It is to the latter figure that the present study appears to relate. The painting was discovered by Prisco Bagni, badly damaged and in storage at the depots of the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan. It was subsequently cleaned, restored and published by Bagni in 1991 as a late work, dating from 1663 (fig. 1). Before the discovery of the painting, the composition was known, but only from a 1757 engraving by Bolzoni.3 Bagni also identified another drawing connected with the painting, a double-sided red chalk sheet, also in the Brera, which has a compositional study on the recto and a study for the kneeling friar on the verso.

The present sheet is drawn in a notably different manner from the red chalk drawing in Brera: with broad, bold pen and brown ink and wash, rather than the more tentative, loosely sculpted chalk of the double-sided study, which fits with what Nicholas Turner describes as the 'broken contours and lines of fluctuating intensity' of Guercino's late period.5 At the time of the Horvitz Collection exhibition, Turner pointed out that the present study, on the other hand, can best be related stylistically to Guercino's drawings of the 1630s, and in particular to certain drawings of half- or bust-length single male figures that he made at this time, such as the Old Bearded Man in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, the Man Reading at a Table, in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Bust of a Man, facing right, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.6  This difference in style between the two sheets may confirm Wolk-Simon's hypothesis that the present drawing was not drawn in preparation for a painting, but was instead an 'independent invention', which accounts for the study's highly poetic nature, and the wonderfully broad, fluid manner in which it has been drawn. Indeed, considering it is thought that Guercino drew far less in the 1650s and '60s, and that his doctor had apparently forbidden him from drawing on account of chest pains,7 the idea that the artist might have used an earlier design, from one of his most intensive periods of draughtsmanship, as inspiration for his last painting seems both appealing and plausible. 

This sheet was once part of the large group of drawings which, on Guercino's death, were inherited by his nephews Benedetto (1633-1715) and Cesare (1637-88) Gennari. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the drawings passed to Cesare's grandson, Carlo Gennari (1712-90), by whom the group was dispersed. At this point, many drawings, including this sheet, were obtained by the Bolognese dealer, Francesco Forni, who then sold them to John Bouverie.8  According to an inventory of the Gennari family's property taken in 1719, prior to the dispersal of the drawings, 1,689 of them were placed in eight large albums, which were organised according to the medium and subject of the drawing.9 One of these albums was entitled Dissegni di Penna, et Acquarella di diverse grandezze, rapresentanti diverse Teste, Figure, e Puttini; it contained 297 drawings, of which the present study was most probably one.10 

1. D.M. Stone, Guercino: Catalogo completo dei dipinti, Florence 1991, cat. no. 165

2. N. Turner, The Paintings of Guercino, Rome 2017, no. 493, reproduced

3. D. Mahon, P. Bagni et al.Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, il Guercino, 1591-1666, exh. cat., Bologna 1991, cat. no. 152; the engraving reproduced in P. Bagni's note on the painting in M. Foschi and G. Viroli (eds), Il San Domenico di Forlì. La chiesa, il luogo, la città, exhib. cat., Forlì, Oratorio di San Sebasiano, 1991, pp. 98, 101

4. Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera, inv. no. 13. P. Bagni in exhib. cat. Forlì 1991, pp. 99-100

5. Turner in Turner and Plazzotta, Drawings by Guercino from British Collections, exh. cat., London 1991, p. 181

6. Turner's observations cited by Wolk-Simon in the 1991-93 Horvitz exhibition catalogue, loc. cit. For the three comparable drawings, see, respectively: D. Mahon and N. Turner, The Drawings of Guercino in the Collection of her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, Cambridge 1989, cat. no. 186, fig. 368; D. M. Stone, Guercino, Master Draftsman: Works from North American Collections, exh. cat., Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1991, cat. no. 79; J. Bean, 17th-Century Italian Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1979, cat. no. 246

7. Turner and Plazzotta, op. cit., p. 181

8.  Ibid., p. 8

9. Mahon and Turner, op. cit., pp. xx-xxi

10. Gainesville, et al., 1991-93, no. 20