Giovanni Francesco Barbieri

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Barbieri: self-portrait
Barbieri: Diana's bath

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri , called Il Guercino (born February 8, 1591 in Cento , † December 22, 1666 in Bologna ) was an Italian Baroque painter . His stage name (“the squint”) refers to his right eye, with which he squinted since an accident in his childhood, as his biographer Malvasia reports. However, this is still not fully proven.


Giovanni Francesco Barbieri was born to Andrea Barbieri and Elena Ghisellini. As a seven-year-old, he is said to have drawn with talent and painted a year later. At the age of 17 he began his training with Benedetto Gennari (1563–1658), a painter from the Bolognese school . However, Guercino is largely considered to be an autodidact, as his training with Gennari should not last long. In 1615 at the latest he moved to Bologna , where the young man's work was praised by Ludovico Carracci . Guercino, like the Carracci family, had been greatly influenced by contemporary art theorists who advocated a new naturalism. Margrave Enzo Bentivoglio gave him his recommendation to Pope Gregory XV. who was a member of the Ludovisi family of Bolognese . He invited Barbieri to Rome in 1621, where he stayed until the Pope's death two years later. Very recognized and extremely productive during his lifetime - no less than 106 altarpieces and 144 other paintings are from his hand - he managed to build up a great fortune. He painted and taught until his death in 1666.

The ecstasy of St. Francis


His early style was based on the Carracci family and, in particular, on their drawing school, the Accademia dei Desiderosi , based on whose model Guercino founded his own academy in his hometown of Cento in 1616, the Accademia del Nudo . The numerous reforms of the Carracci Academy, namely the study of the human body on a living model, the interest in natural light and its refraction on the human skin, as well as the turn to naturalism in general, were to have a lasting impact on Guercino. Ludovico Carracci in particular had a lasting influence on the artist, although it should be noted that Guercino himself was never a student of Carracci, but always only studied her works. Like hardly any other Baroque artist, an astonishing number of drawings by Guercino have survived, which he not only used as preparation for his commissioned work, but also gave away privately. In his late work he came closer to his contemporary Guido Reni and painted with more light and clarity. He is known to have painted two large canvases in the style of Caravaggio , although he probably hadn't seen an original Caravaggio before. The reason for this parallel between the artists is always the strong light-dark contrasts, the so-called chiaroscuro , which was characteristic of both Caravaggio and Guercino. To what extent the fact that Guercino squinted and probably perceived his environment differently because of this, played a role cannot be fully explained. The images of Elias, nourished by the ravens, and Samson, seized by the Philistines, show a pronounced naturalism. They were made for Cardinal Serra, the papal legate in Ferrara. In Rome he created frescoes in the Villa Ludovisi and in San Crisogono . His portrait of Pope Gregory XV. is on display at the Getty Center today . He also portrayed Cardinal Francesco Cennini de 'Salamandri . In 1626 he began his frescoes in the cathedral of Piacenza . In 1640 he painted an altarpiece with Saint Anne for the Benadduci Chapel in San Nicola in Tolentino .

Works (selection)

Web links

Commons : Giovanni Francesco Barbieri  - Collection of images, videos and audio files