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Home / Great Artists / G / Giovanni Francesco Barbieri Guercino / Biography
Biography Giovanni Francesco Barbieri Guercino

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri Guercino Biography


1591-1666

Italian Baroque Painter

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (February 8, 1591 - December 9, 1666), best known as Guercino or Il Guercino, was an Italian Baroque painter from the region of Emilia, and active in Rome and Bologna. Guercino is Italian for squinter, a nickname that was given to him because he was cross-eyed.
Guercino was born at Cento, a village between Bologna and Ferrara.
By the age of 17 he was associated with Benedetto Gennari, a painter of the Bolognese School. By 1615 he moved to Bologna, where his work earned the praise of an elder Ludovico Carracci. He painted two large canvases, Elijah Fed by Ravens and Samson Seized by Philistines, in what appears to be a stark naturalist Carravagista style (although it is unlikely he had been able to see any of the Roman Caravaggio's first-hand). They were painted for Cardinal Serra, Papal Legate to Ferrara.
The Arcadian Shepherds (Et in Arcadia ego) was painted in 1618 contemporary with The Flaying of Marsyas by Apollo in Palazzo Pitti. His first style, he often claimed, was influenced by a canvas of Caracci in Cento. Some of his later pieces approach rather to the manner of his great contemporary Guido Reni, and are painted with more lightness and clearness. Guercino was esteemed very highly in his lifetime.
He was then recommended by Marchese Enzo Bentivoglio to the Bolognese Ludovisi Pope, Pope Gregory XV. For the two years (1621-23) he spent in Rome, he was very productive. From this stay, date his frescoes of Aurora at the casino of the Villa Ludovisi and the ceiling in San Crisogono (1622) of San Chrysogonus in Glory; his portrait of pope Gregory (now in Getty Museum, and, what is considered his masterpiece, The Burial of Saint Petronilla or St. Petronilla Altarpiece, for the Vatican (now in the Museo Capitolini).
The Franciscan order of Reggio in 1655 paid him 300 ducats for the altarpiece of Saint Luke Displaying a Painting of the Madonna and Child (now in Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City). The Corsini also payed him 300 ducats for the Flagellation of Christ painted in 1657.
He was remarkable for the extreme rapidity of his execution - he completed no fewer than 106 large altar-pieces for churches, and his other paintings amount to about 144. In 1626 he began his frescoes in the Duomo at Piacenza. Guercino continued to paint and teach up to the time of his death in 1666. He had amassed a handsome fortune.