Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, Guercino (1591 - 1666)

Roman Charity: Cimon and Pero Sold

Pen and brown ink, with traces of framing lines in brown ink.
Inscribed Guercino at the lower left.
Numbered d.82 at the lower right.
216 x 170 mm. (8 1/2 x 6 3/4 in.)


This drawing is in all likelihood related to a half-length painting of Cimon and Pero by Guercino, now lost, which was commissioned from the artist by the Marchese Bentivoglio as a gift for the then Monsignor (later Cardinal) Mazarin, who served as papal nuncio in France. The painting is mentioned in Guercino’s account book, the libro de’ conti, which records a payment of 66 scudi for the picture, received by the artist on the 23rd of August, 1639. The libro de’ conti describes the subject of the painting as ‘Carità Romana’, or Roman Charity.

The story of Cimon and Pero is taken from the Roman historian Valerius Maximus’s Factorum ac dictorum memorabilium libri IX (Nine Books of Memorable Deeds and Sayings), a compendium of stories of Ancient Rome, written around 30 BC. The aged Cimon is imprisoned and left to die of starvation, but is secretly nursed by his daughter Pero, who keeps him alive by doing so. This act of filial piety and selflessness impresses the old man’s jailers, and he is set free.

At least four other drawings of this subject by Guercino are known, all of which may be also be related to the Bentivoglio commission. A pen and ink drawing of Cimon and Pero, from the Casa Gennari, Bouverie, Earls of Gainsborough and Oppé collections, appeared at auction in 1971 and 2006, while another pen and ink drawing of the same subject was on the art market in 1994; in both of these drawings the arrangement of the figures is identical to that in the present sheet. A drawing of Roman Charity in red chalk, with the figures transposed so that Cimon is at the right and Pero at the left, was at one time in the H. S. Reitlinger collection and was sold at auction in 1953. Another red chalk drawing of the subject of Cimon and Pero was recently on the art market in New York, of which an offset or counterproof is in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.

Padre Sebastiano Resta, Rome
Presented by him, as part of an album of drawings, to Monsignor Giovanni Matteo Marchetti, Arezzo, in 1698
By descent to his nephew, Cavaliere Orazio Marchetti da Pistoia
Sold in 1710 with the Resta collection of drawings, probably through John Talman, to John, Lord Somers, London (Lugt 2981), with the Resta-Somers number d.82 at the lower right
Probably his sale, London, Peter Motteaux, 16 May 1717
Richard Houlditch, London (Lugt 2214), with his collector’s mark and associated number 13 at the lower right
Probably by descent to his son, Richard Houlditch Jr.
Probably his sale, London, Langford, 12-14 February 1760
Private collection, London, by 1950
Thence by descent until 2013.

[Presumably] Anon., Father Resta’s Remarks on the Drawings, British Library MS Lansdowne 802, undated, p.40v, no.82 (‘Guercino’); Anon., An Alphabetical Catalogue of the Painters in the Collection, with the Drawings of each respective Master, referring to the several Books in which they are placed, British Library MS Lansdowne 803, undated, p.34v (‘Guercino da Cento 1590...The Woman giving Suck to her Father. EE.7.’).

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri GUERCINO

Roman Charity: Cimon and Pero


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