Il Guercino The return of the Prodigal Son

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Lot 60
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Il Guercino
(1591-1666)
261 x207mm

Sold for £ 17,925 (US$ 24,900) inc. premium
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Il Guercino (1591-1666)
Recto: The return of the Prodigal Son
Verso: Sketches of clouds for an arched composition
pen and brown ink with a light brown wash (recto); pen and brown ink (verso); framed
261 x207mm
provenance: M. de Bourguignon de Fabregoules; Charles-Joseph-Barthelemi Giraud, his stamp, bottom right (not in Lugt); Flury-Herard, his initials and numbering on the verso: F.H. No. 138 (Lugt 1015); private collection, U.K.

Footnotes

  • In 1642 Guercino is recorded as having executed two paintings of the parable of The Return of the Prodigal Son. Neither of them has so far come to light, nor are any copies or engravings known. One was commissioned by Sig. Principe Adeo Barberini, who gave the painting to Pope Urban VIII. It was paid for on June 21st 1642 (Libri dei Conti, 1808, pp.101-2). The second was commissioned by Padre D. Gregorio Maffone (Massone?) on October 20th 1642 (Libri dei Conti, 1841, p.323). Both works are mentioned in the account books as half-lengths.
    Sir Denis Mahon, who kindly confirmed the attribution on examining our drawing in 1996, dated it to the early 1640s. In motif, pen-style and characterisation it is closely comparable with Bearded man with arms open in a gesture of greeting, now in a private collection (reproduced in N. Turner and C. Plazzotta, Drawings by Guercino from British Collections, London, 1991, p. 153, no. 127), and with the study of two full-length figures sold at Christie’s, London, 9th December 1982, lot 45. Both drawings, datable to c. 1641, are tentatively associated by Turner and Plazzotta with the commissions for the Return of the Prodigal Son paid for in 1642. It seems highly likely therefore that the present sheet may also have been made in preparation for one or other of these commissions.
    Interestingly, Guercino had already used the motif of the son moving urgently towards the outstretched arms of his father for his painting of Cato saying farewell to his son (Musee des Beaux-Arts, Marseilles). In its reappearance in the present drawing, it has become a gesture of welcome.
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Il Guercino (1591-1666) 261 x207mm
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