Lot n° 5
20000 - 30000
Result with fees
: 49 400EUR
Giovanni Francesco BARBIERI, DIT LE GUERCHIN (Cento 1591 - 1666, Bologne)
King David at Prayer
Oil on canvas
77 x 64 cm
PROVENANCE Anonymous sale; Paris, Lafon-Castandet, March 23, 2012, no. 56.
This painting belongs to Guerchino's last period in Bologna (1642 - 1666), when his paintings take on an intensely mystical aspect, his colors become more saturated and his workmanship freer and more ethereal, especially in the treatment of the backgrounds.
During this period, four paintings with King David as their subject are recorded in Guerchino's Libro dei conti. The first, an anatomical study of the head and shoulders of the king of Israel, now lost, was painted in 1649 for Girolamo Panesi, a Genoese nobleman, merchant and friend of the artist, who stayed in Rome for a long time1. The second, a full-length figure painted in 1651 for the Bolognese Giuseppe Locatelli, was once in the Spencer collection at Althorp House (Northampton) and is now owned by Lord Rothschild, who recently loaned it to Spencer House (London)2. The third, most likely a mid-body figure, was painted in 1658, also for Girolamo Panesi, along with three other paintings, which were the subject of a special price: it is almost certainly our painting3. Finally, the last painting mentioned in the master's accounts represents the whole figure of David victorious carrying the head of Goliath, painted for
Giacomo Ruffo in 1666 and which is, most probably, the painting kept in the Fesch Museum in Ajaccio4.
In this painting, the roughness of the head and hands explicitly refers to the last style of Guerchino in the 1660s.
Also characteristic of his maturity is the softened character of the skin tones, pale and so human, which contrast singularly with the darker background. One can read this erasure of forms especially in the upper part of King David's head, in the wrinkles of his forehead, in the curls of his hair and beard - all these details beautifully differentiated both in color and in texture. Painted with extreme delicacy, the white garment covering the king's body, 1. B. Ghelfi (ed.), Il libro dei conti del Guercino 1629 - 1666, Bologna 1997, p. 143, no. 413. On Panesi's activity as a merchant, and especially for his commissions of paintings by the Guerchino, see: N. Turner, "Mola's Caricature Portrait of the Genoese Collector and Dealer Gerolamo Panesi", Master Drawings, XLVII, n° 4, 2009, pp. 516 - 519.
2. Ghelfi, 1997, p. 153, n° 442. The painting is reproduced in L. Salerno, I dipinti del
Guercino, Rome, 1988, p. 353, n° 283. The painting was sold by Althorp (Christie's, London, July 6, 2010, lot 7) and was bought by Lord Rothschild.
3. Ghelfi, 1997, p. 182, no. 536. In his note on no. 536, Ghelfi explains that Panesi paid a slightly lower price than Guerchino's standard rate for a canvas with a bust and that the four paintings commissioned - King David, an Assumption of the Virgin, Saint Cecilia and Saint Veronica - were to be slightly smaller than the size usually offered by the master. Only the paintings of Saint Cecilia (Naples, private collection) and the King David, which we discovered in a Parisian collection, are now identified.
4. Ghelfi, 1997, p. 199, no. 595; Salerno, 1988, p. 410, no. 534; and A. Brejon de Lavergnée and N. Volle, Musées de la France. Répertoire des peintures italiennes du XVIIe siècle, Paris, 1988, p. 190 (repr).
that one hardly distinguishes behind the folds of the heavy red coat, distinguishes itself all in subtlety under the embroidered brocade, symbol of majesty. The border of this intimate garment is brushed with a freedom that recalls the pre-roman years of the master. In 1661, Guerchino fell ill.
After starting to paint again, his art became more hesitant, although he could count on the help of his two nephews, Cesare and Benedetto Gennari. A year or two later, he complained to an important client that his hand was unstable and his eyesight failing; this did not prevent him from receiving important commissions until his death in December 1666.
With regard to the figure of King David, parallels can be drawn with other paintings by Guerchino. One of the closest compositions, both in physicality and expression, is that of St. Apollinaris, Bishop and Martyr, executed for the church of Sant'Agostino in Reggio Emilia5. In this altarpiece, St. Apollinaris kneels in front of an imposing architectural decoration, his body turned to the left and the upper part of the pala, animated by an angel and putti. Although he is turned to the left and not to the right, as is the case in our painting, and he wears a miter on his head instead of leaving it uncovered, the physiognomy of the two faces is very similar: the position of the gaze directs the eyes towards Heaven, the same graying beard and the same
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