Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, Guercino (1591 - 1666)

Saint Christopher and the Christ Child Sold

Red chalk, with framing lines in red chalk.
Made up areas (not encroaching on the figures) at the left, top and right edges of the sheet, backed.
285 x 260 mm. (11 1/4 x 10 1/4 in.)

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This splendid large drawing remains unrelated to any surviving painting by Guercino, nor is any painting of this subject recorded in the artist’s account book, the libro dei conti. The existence of such a highly finished drawing, however, would suggest that the artist was thinking of a painted composition, even if none was commissioned or completed. Superbly drawn in red chalk, the present sheet is notable for such charming details as the way in which the Christ Child sits on Saint Christopher’s shoulder, resting his foot on the saint’s index finger while at the same time grasping onto his hair for support.

This drawing may be dated to the 1630’s, contemporary with such drawings as a Young Man Standing in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, which is a study for a lost painting of Apollo Flaying Marsyas of 1637. Also stylistically comparable is an equally highly finished red chalk drawing of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist in the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, which is related to an altarpiece commissioned for a church in Pesaro in 1631 and later destroyed.

Like a number of red chalk drawings by Guercino, a counterproof was made of the present sheet, and is today in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. A large number of such counterproofs, or offsets, were in the possession of Guercino’s heirs, and seem to have been made as a record of red chalk studies by the master before they were sold. In some cases, however, these counterproofs may have been made to sell in place of original drawings by Guercino that the Gennari wished to keep. As Denis Mahon and Nicholas Turner have pointed out, ‘It is possible that the Windsor offsets were sold by Guercino’s heirs instead of the original red chalk drawings that they were either unwilling to sell to Richard Dalton or that he was unwilling to buy; he was apparently satisfied with the purchase of some of these ‘reproductions’ as supplements to the large group of autograph drawings he had already secured.’ Over 230 of these offsets, some of which were crudely retouched by later hands, are today at Windsor. The existence among them of a counterproof taken from the present sheet would therefore indicate that this original drawing by Guercino was among those not sold by his heirs in the 18th century, and was instead retained by them in the Casa Gennari in Bologna.

Provenance:
The artist’s nephews, Benedetto and Cesare Gennari (the ‘Casa Gennari’), Bologna and thence by descent to Carlo Gennari, Bologna
Possibly Francesco Forni, Bologna.

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri GUERCINO

Saint Christopher and the Christ Child

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