Guercino sites in Bologna and Cento
Updated on 11 October 2023 From Bologna Welcome
Born in Cento in 1591 and known as Il Guercino, Giovanni Francesco Barbieri is one of the most representative artists of his time. He lived in Bologna from 1642 onwards. His great renown was evidenced by a visit from Queen Christina of Sweden 1655: the sovereign asked the painter if she could touch his hand, that which “had worked such wonders”. The works of Guercino in the area provide the basis for fascinating itineraries that include churches, streets and museums.
Believed to be one of Guercino’s first known paintings, the Christ
Praying in the Olive Garden reveals how the work of Ludovico Carracci
and Scarsellino had a fundamental influence on the artist. Barbieri's years in
Cento were also the time of the great Trinity, whose figures are drawn to
be viewed from below, while the Lucretia was executed for the
governor of Cento in 1644, when the painter was then famous and living far from
his home town.
In October 1631 Astorre Sampieri paid 100 Italian scudo to Guercino for the execution of Hercules wrestling with Antaeus: foreshortened from below, the two figures adorn the ceiling of a ground floor room. The work was executed dry, and in Carlo Cesare Malvasia’s view, it fully highlighted Guercino's “excellence of drawing”. In the palace rooms, Barbieri's work compares directly with the paintings the Carracci family had dedicated to the mythological hero almost forty years earlier.
-> The palace is open to the public on special occasions
Palazzo Pepoli is home to the
Bologna History Museum, an institution dedicated to the city’s culture and
transformations over the centuries. No exhibition of the period from the
Etruscans to the present could omit a space for the Felsina pittrice, an historic tome illustrating the prolific era of
the Accademia del Naturale (Natural Academy). This school was in fact where
Giovan Francesco Barbieri, known asIl
Guercino, obtained his education. His Madonna with Rose and Child, a sort
of “portable fresco”, can be admired at the Bologna History Museum. The work is
remarkable, given that the painter was only 25 years old at the time of its
Bastoni, Palazzo Pepoli. Bologna History Museum
In 1808 Jacopo Alessandro Calvi published the News of the Life of Guercino. Regarded to be the “first modern biography”of the Cento
master, it is celebrated for its distinctive style, marked by vivid naturalism
and a “soft and sweet tone”. These aspects proved to be a source of
admiration not only for Calvi the art author, but also for Calvi as a painter, as evidenced by his Our Lady of Sorrows in
the Davia Bargellini Museum. The painting was executed around 1804, about the
same time as the writing of the biography.
works at the Medieval Museum are useful
for understanding the back ground and
context in which Guercino worked: a prominent influence at the time of his
Roman sojourn was the Bust of Pope Gregory XV Ludovisi,
created by Bernini around 1621-22,
exemplifying the great sculptor’s early innovative experiments on animation
effects, carried out in the papal capital; feeding into the Bolognese tradition
was the bronze group Saint Michael Overcoming Satan, a
work that adroitly resolves the dynamism and action in opposite and crossed
rhythms. This sculpture was executed by Bernini’s greatest rival, Algardi, around 1650 – the time of
Guercino's late phase when he was permanently resident in Bologna.
The Ulisse Aldrovandi
section at the Palazzo Poggi Museum tells the story of the Bolognese scientist
who began to study nature from real life
in the 16th century and to have it reproduced by artists and engravers in
images that his contemporary painters did not hesitate to take inspiration
from. This was the line of development taken by the painting of Guercino (1591-1666), an artist capable of observing
the nature before his eyes and transposing it unadorned onto canvas.
Arrangement of the “House, study and museum” Hall at Palazzo Poggi Museum ©Sistema Museale di Ateneo
The treasures housed at the Inzaghi Art Gallery allow us to take a
close look at Guercino's artistic temperament and his renown. The
saints “Cecilia” and “Agnes”, portrayed in half-figure, replicate and
build upon the celebrated models of Barbieri
and his workshop. The collection also includes valuable drawings by the
painter, who put great effort into his designs and the various expressive
possibilities of his tools, whether pen, charcoal or sanguine.
- ©Domenico Inzaghi Civic Art Gallery
Guercino nurtured an intense bond with Cento even during the years
he spent away from the town. The churches, palaces and local area of Cento are
dotted with the works of the painter and his school. The Civic Art Gallery allows the spectator
to interpret Barbieri's painting career starting from his models (in particular
Ludovico Carracci) and to retrace his artistic path through some absolute
masterpieces, such as the “Madonna with Blessing Child” and “The Resurrected Christ Appears to the Virgin, admired by
Velázquez and Goethe.
In 1642, alarmed at the prospect of Castro’s imminent war on Cento, Guercino left his home town and took refuge in Bologna. Initially a guest of Count Filippo Aldrovandi, in 1644 he bought a large house in Via del Carbone, now Via S. Alò. In this house-studio, the painter brought together his brother Paolo Antonio, his sisters and their families. Two of Guercino's grandsons, Benedetto and Cesare Gennari, sons of Lucia Barbieri, kept his artist's workshop going after his death.
-> The palace is open to the public on special occasions
One room of the Quadreria di ASP Città di Bologna is entirely dedicated to the exhibition of works from Guercino's workshop in Bologna. Six canvases by the master and his disciples can be admired in the building. Among his pupils was also his nephew Cesare Gennari, who painted the prestigious portraits of two benefactors of the Opera Pia dei Poveri Vergognosi, Francesco Maria Dal Sole and Dorotea Fiorenzi Saccenti, also on display at the Quadreria.