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Virtuoso Guercino Essay

2221 words - 9 pages

More than 350 authentic paintings that include the depiction of a great variety subjects, from mythological to historical to religious, have been identified to date as his. Powerful religious and political figures were impressed with his masterful artistic skills. But even more so, these luminaries were attracted to his innovative ability to express religious ideas and implant political meanings into his work that accorded with their ideals. His virtuosity allowed him to paint for the likes of high-ranking men such as popes, bishops and papal legates (cardinals), who actively advanced his career and status and allowed him great success. Praised by Ludovico Carracci as “a prodigy of nature” ...view middle of the document...

It was the work of Ludovico Carracci that was crucial to the formation of Guercino’s early artistic ideas and he greatly admired Carracci’s work. In the year of his birth Carracci sent his altarpiece the “Virgin and Child with Saints Joseph and Francis to a church in Cento. Guercino later referred to this work as his “artistic mother” and then sought out Ludovico in Bologna in 1615. Although, there was no formal record of Guercino’s apprenticeship, he was clearly familiar with the master’s paintings and drawings. Ludovico praised Guercino in a letter to an agent in 1617 as “a great draughtsman and a felicitous colorist: he’s a freak of nature and a miracle who astonishes all who see his work. I’ll say nothing more: he’ll make the finest painters look like fools; you’ll see when you return.”
It is believed that somewhere between 1617 and 1618, while in Bologna, the papal legate of Ferrara, Cardinal Jacopo Serra, caught wind about Guercino, invited him to Ferrara, and began to commission him for several different works of art. Guercino most likely knew that Cardinal Serra had been Peter Paul Rubens’ most eloquent advocate in Rome, and helped Rubens to obtain the commission to paint the high altar of the Chiesa Nuova (a church in Rome that is rather important to this time period). Cardinal Serra was extremely enthused and pleased with several of Guercino’s commissioned works and in 1620 made him a Knight of the Papal Order of the Golden Spur – a very high honor. Also known as the Order of the Golden Militia,” it is a papal order of chivalry conferred upon those who have rendered distinguished service in propagating the Catholic faith, or who have contributed to the glory of the Church, either by feat of arms, by writings, or by other illustrious acts. With that Knight-ship, he joined an elite status that at the time included notable recipients such as Raphael, Titian, and Julius Casesar. Under Cardinal Serra’s patronage Guercino produced the works of art that made him a famous painter (even though at the time he was still very young) one of which was Samson Captured by the Philistines.
Guercino lived all his life under papal rule. He began his artistic career during the reign of Pope Paul V (Camillo Borghese, 1605–21), who advocated a vigorous anti-Protestant policy. Like his predecessors, Paul V longed for a quick Catholic victory that would dismiss the Protestants once and for all and restore Catholic hegemony in Western Europe. In Daniel M. Unger’s book Guercino’s Paintings and His Patrons’ Politics in Early Modern Italy, it is stated: “In modern scholarship it is always the patron who is regarded as the dominant factor in the production of a work of art, guiding the artist and his work. The artist is perceived as having played the relatively minor role of executing what has been commissioned; the reasons for the work, the ideas behind it, and its goal—all stem from the desires and aspirations of the patron. Even the stylistic component...

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