Giovanni Francesco Barbieri GUERCINO (Cento 1591 - Bologna 1666)

Lot and his Daughters Sold

Pen and brown ink and brown wash, with traces of framing lines in brown ink.
Laid down on an 18th century English mount, inscribed Guercino at the bottom.
Numbered 544. at the upper right of the mount.
180 x 235 mm. (7 1/8 x 8 7/8 in.)


This drawing is a preparatory compositional study for one of the most significant works of Guercino’s early career; the large canvas of Lot and His Daughters painted in 1617 for Cardinal Alessandro Ludovisi, the archbishop of Bologna and later Pope Gregory XV, and today in the monastery of San Lorenzo at El Escorial, near Madrid. This was one of three paintings commissioned from Guercino by Cardinal Ludovisi executed in 1617, the others being a Return of the Prodigal Son and a Susanna and the Elders. The Lot and His Daughters is recorded in inventories of the Villa Ludovisi in Rome in 1623 and 1633, but in 1664 both it and the Susanna and the Elders were presented by Prince Niccolò Ludovisi, nephew of Gregory XV, to King Phillip IV of Spain. The two paintings were placed in the Escorial, where the Lot and His Daughters remains today, while the Susanna and the Elders was transferred in 1814 to the Palacio Real in Madrid and is now in the Prado.

Painted when the artist was in his late twenties, the Lot and his Daughters is thought to have been the first of the four Ludovisi pictures to be painted by Guercino. The importance of the commission is reflected in the fact that seven preparatory drawings for the painting, including the present sheet, are known or recorded. Other extant compositional studies for the painting include drawings in the Louvre, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg and the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, as well as a double-sided sheet in the Szépmüvészeti Müzeum in Budapest. In addition, Nicholas Turner has identified a drawing in the collection of the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid as a study for the Escorial painting, while another compositional study for the Lot and his Daughters was once among the large number of drawings by Guercino in the collection of the 18th century portrait painter and collector Thomas Hudson, and is now lost, although its appearance is recorded in a colour engraving of 1763.

The drawings for the 1617 painting of Lot and his Daughters show Guercino experimenting with two different compositional ideas; either with the figures shown side by side in a line, as in the Louvre and Hermitage drawings, or with the three figures arranged in a pyramidical composition, as seen in both sides of the Budapest drawing and the drawing in the Brera, as well as the final painting. David Stone has noted of the present sheet that ‘Guercino conceived of a much sexier treatment for one of the daughters. Placed on the right of the composition, she is shown from behind in an erotic, langourous pose. In the final, painted version, by contrast, she is shifted to the left, shown in profile, and given a more decorous, upright position. Whereas in the drawing she is more passive, in the painting she aggressively helps tip back Lot's wine glass. Guercino often revised the more discursive or genre-like elements of his preparatory drawings when he got to the painting stage. The rather open disposition of figures in the present sheet has been carefully re-choreographed in the Escorial painting to form a tight triangle - in fact, the heads form a triangle within the overall triangular design. Especially brilliant is the idea of a pinwheel like movement that expresses, as a design conceit, Lot's drunkenness.’

The present sheet, first mentioned in a footnote by Sir Denis Mahon in 1968 exhibition catalogue, has remained very little known to scholars, and indeed does not appear to have ever been illustrated before now. The drawing has a long and distinguished English provenance dating back to the 18th century, and belonged to three prominent artist-collectors. The portrait painter Nathaniel Hone (1718-1784), whose collector’s mark is stamped at the lower right of the sheet, was a founder member of the Royal Academy, and a noted collector of both drawings and prints. His collection was dispersed at auction in two sales, in 1781 and 1785. The drawing also bears the collector’s mark of the 18th century painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), whose collection of several thousand drawings, for the most part Italian works of the 16th and 17th centuries, was sold at two auctions in 1794 and 1798. The present sheet then entered the renowned collection of the Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), perhaps the single greatest English collector of Old Master drawings.

Nathaniel Hone, London (Lugt 2793)
Probably his sales, London, Christie and Ansell, 4-7 April 1781 or London, Hutchins, 7-15 February 1785
Sir Joshua Reynolds, London (Lugt 2364)
By descent to his niece, Mary Palmer, later Marchioness of Thomond
The posthumous Reynolds sales, London, A. C. de Poggi, 26 May 1794 onwards or London, H. Philips, 5-26 March 1798
Sir Thomas Lawrence, London (Lugt 2445)
Probably purchased after Lawrence’s death, together with the rest of his collection, by Samuel Woodburn, London, in 1834
The Earls of Crawford and Balcarres, Balcarres House, Colinsburgh, Fife
Private collection.

Denis Mahon, Il Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, 1591-1666): Catalogo critico dei disegni, exhibition catalogue, Bologna, 1968, p.31, note 8 and p.54, under nos.21-22; Stéphane Loire, Le Guerchin en France, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1990, p.92, under no.24; Nicholas Turner, The Paintings of Guercino: A Revised and Expanded Catalogue raisonné, Rome, 2017, p.300, under no.39.

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri GUERCINO

Lot and his Daughters

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