4. Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Guercino

Cento 1591 – 1666 Bologna

Five Studies for the Magdalen, circa 1620

The Crucifixion with Saints, painted by Guercino between 1624 and 1625 in the church of the Madonna della Ghiara in Reggio Emilia, was one of the most important commis­sions received by the Bolognese artist on his return from Rome. Our sheet is one of the many surviving preparato­ry drawings for the altarpiece. In each sketch, Guercino represents Mary Magdalen in a different pose, reflecting her states of mind at various stages of the Crucifixion: throwing herself dejectedly at the foot of the Cross, clutch­ing it in agony, or supporting the fainting Virgin – the pose that was finally selected. These variations, expressed fully by the five studies on our sheet, reflect the artist’s indecision; Guercino liked to explore a variety of solu­tions. The genius of his invention is matched by his graph­ic skill, embodied in the fine, fluid lines that twist and turn on the paper.