A Guercino donation for Frankfurt

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri,
called Guercino (1591-1666)
Virgin with Child, c. 1621-1622
Oil on canvas - 64 x 50 cm
Frankfurt, Städel Museum
Photo : Städel Museum

10/2/11 – Acquisition – Frankfurt, Städel Museum – In late December 2010, Barbara and Eduard Beaucamp [1], art lovers, donated their Virgin with Child by Guercino (ill.) to this German museum. They had acquired it in 1981 on the antique market in Frankfurt as a 19th century copy, but had recognized its undeniable quality.

Guercino was acknowledged as the actual artist by specialists [2] and it was included in the retrospectives which took place in Bologna in 1991, then Milan and Rome in 2003-2004 (see the review in French). These art historians dated it around 1621/1622, that is during his stay in Rome when Guercino, having already learned extensively from his experience in Bologna and Venice, was called for by his former Bolognese client Alessandre Ludovisi who had since become Pope Gregory XV. The Italian capital was then a thriving center for Baroque artists and competition was rude. Nonetheless, Guercino dominated the scene with several masterpieces including the Aurora fresco at the Casino Ludovisi and the Funeral of Saint Petronilla (Rome, Musei Capitolini), two different answers to Guido Reni’s Classicism. In this devotional painting, the artist employs a stark luminous contrast borrowed from Caravaggio and a refined matter which owes its influence to the Carracis as well as to Rubens’ followers, such as Fetti, but the work is entirely transcended by the expression of tender intimacy exchanged between the mother and the child.
This Madonna fills an important gap in the beautiful Italian collections at the Städel Museum as well as in its rich ensemble of 17th century European paintings. In fact, it is exactly contemporary to the Baburen work acquired in 2008 (see news item of 12/1/08). Unlike collectors in other countries, Germans have not shown interest in the artist from Cento, thus explaining why there are barely a dozen works in German museums : the eight canvases in Dresden joined the establishment all at the same time with the acquisition of the Dukes of Modena’s collection in 1745 and Berlin owns only one, the Marriage of Saint Catherine, purchased in 1970.

Michel de Piles, jeudi 10 février 2011


[1] Eduard Beaucamp was the art critic for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He supported Joseph Beuys’ work in the 60’s, as well as the Documenta fairs in Cassel and the Leipzig school ; Barbara holds a degree in art history and is specialized in European and Chinese ceramics. Their private collection was shown at the Leipzig museum in 2009.

[2] Luigi Salerno, Denis Mahon, I dipinti del Guercino, Roma 1988, p. 159, n° 80. David M. Stone, Guercino, catalogo complete, Cantini, Florence 1991, p. 9, n° 77.

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