|Erminia and Tancredi, 1618, Private Collection, Cento|
|St. Peter receives the keys, 1618, Pinacoteca Civica, Cento|
But Guercino never quite fit in with his fellow artists. His work was too sensitive and full of emotion to be considered classical, yet too colorful and romantic to be considered naturalistic. He struck the perfect happy medium between Carracci and Caravaggio, although in his early period he occasionally showed signs of being influenced by the great Caravaggio, particularly in the painting above. Does it remind you just a bit of Caravaggio's Madonna di Loreto? Yeah, me too. But the work above was painted a full two years before Guercino came to Rome, so the similarity is most likely purely coincidence.
|Mystical wedding of St. Catherine in the presence of St. Carlo Borromeo, 1614-15, Cassa di Risparmio, Cento|
It was his brilliant chromatic ability that set Guercino apart from the others. Photographs can never capture the true colors of a painting, particularly if they are appearing on a computer screen, so I urge you to visit the exhibit in person if you are in Rome. His use of lapis lazuli outdoes even Michelangelo.
|Sibyl, 1619-21, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio, Cento|
Today a new exhibition of 36 of this incredible artist's paintings opens in Palazzo Barberini's new exhibition space. This massive area on the ground floor of the exquisite baroque palace is over 1000 square meters, and this is only the second exhibit to be housed there, in what is expected to be a long series of mostre, each one focusing on a different painter. (Rumor has it Antoniazzo Romano is next, an artist who has the distinction of being the first Roman Renaissance painter!) What is fascinating about this exhibit is that it gives you a thorough understanding of the entire career of the great Emilian master, with a large selection of his early works, all on loan from his home town of Cento, a second section devoted to the work he executed in Rome, while working for the Emilian pope, Gregory XV Ludovisi, and a third section with his later works, created after his return to Emilia-Romagna. The three areas are clearly distinct from one another by the bright colors of the walls: cobalt, crimson and lilac, respectively.
|The Miracle of St. Carlo Borromeo, 1613-14, Church of St. Sebastian, Renazzo di Cento|
|Cleopatra before Octavian Augustus, 1640, Pinacoteca Capiotolina, Rome|
The painting above, long believed to depict Augustus, has recently been considered by some to depict Julius Caesar instead. What do you think? I personally think the original idea is right. The soldier here looks quite young, and Caesar was considerably older than Cleopatra. And she doesn't seem to be in her first flush of youth, but instead older than the man in front of her. But I could be wrong!
|Saul attempts to kill David with a spear, 1646, Palazzo Barberini, Rome|
Only in Guercino's later work, from the 1640s onward, does he fully embrace classicism, becoming more inspired by Guido Reni than any other artist. How different, for example, is the Sibyl below from the one above? So much more intellectual and cold, almost as if she is posing for the artist, as opposed to the plumper, more life-like version above. At least his northern talent for color never changed.
|Periscan Sybil, 1647, Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome|
|Diana and the Hunt, 1658, Fondazione Sorgente Group, Cento|
For all the practical information for visiting this gorgeous show, visit my Exhibits on now page.
All images provided courtesy of Ufficio Stampa Civita
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