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Study of a seated young man looking to the left

Study of a seated young man looking to the left
red chalk
14 x 9 3⁄8. in. (35.6 x 23.8 cm), extended along the right edge with a strip of paper of circa 1.2 cm
The artist’s studio; by descent to his nephews
Benedetto and Cesare Gennari (1637-1688), Bologna; by descent to Cesare’s grandson
Carlo Gennari (1712-1790), Bologna; from whom acquired by
Francesco Giusti (1752-1828), Bologna (his mount); by descent to his nephew
Carlo Giusti (1701-1759); by inheritance to his sister
Vittoria Maria Brigitta (1808-1897) and Count Giacomo Zorzi; by descent to their son
Count Alvise Piero Zorzi; from whom acquired in 1899 by
Hugo Fleischhauer (1863-1930), Stuttgart (his inscription on the verso of the mount ‘Studie zu einen deckengemalde in einer kirch in Piazenza n 9 (?) fotograffia/ Guercino, studio di un giovane No 442 Der Sammlung Giusti, and inscribed in pencil, Guercino/ 442’); thence by descent.
with Thomas Williams, London.
Private collection, London.
Collezione di disegni e cartoni posseduti dal fu Francesco Giusti in Bologna, Bologna, 1864, p. 30, Cartella IV, no. 442.
N. Turner, The Paintings of Guercino. A Revised and Expanded Catalogue Raisonné, Rome, 2017, p. 427, under no. 148.3, ill.

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Lot Essay

This drawing is a preparatory study for the figure of the prophet Zechariah in the fresco decoration of the cupola in the Cathedral in Piacenza (fig. 1). The decoration had originally been commissioned from the Milanese painter Pierfrancesco Mazzucchelli, called il Morazzone, but upon the artist’s death, at the beginning of 1626, Guercino was summoned to complete the work. The monumental cupola is divided into eight compartments, only two of which were painted by Morazzone, while Guercino frescoed the remaining six, each with the figure of a prophet attended by putti or angels. Given the importance of the commission, Guercino executed numerous preparatory studies, many of which still survive in museums and private collections (P. Bagni, Gli affreschi del Guercino nel duomo di Piacenza, Bologna, 1983). These drawings range from quick pen and ink sketches to more careful studies in chalk for the figures and other details. Even though Guercino was a prolific draftsman, the drawings for Piacenza are particularly important in the artist’s corpus. They are indeed documents of Guercino’s working practice as they reveal how the artist carefully planned in advance each figure and detail before beginning his work in fresco, a testing technique that he did not practice very often.

Eight further preparatory drawings for the figure of Zechariah are known (see Turner, op. cit., p. 427, under no. 148.3), with most of them executed in red chalk. Two are full-length figures similar to the present drawing. One is in the Royal Collection at Windsor (inv. no. 2693; N. Turner, C. Plazzotta, Drawings by Guercino from British Collections, London, 1991, no. 58, ill.) and the other in Palazzo Rosso in Genoa (inv. no. 1118; ibid., pp. 88-89, under no. 58, ill.). While the drawing in the Royal Collection is probably a study from life and the figure is quite different from the painted version in Piacenza, the sheet in Genoa is closer to the fresco. Among the known studies, however, the present drawing is the closest to the final painting, with the only significant difference being the addition of the drapery to cover the saint’s right knee.

Fig. 1. Guercino, The prophet Zechariah. Cathedral, Piacenza.

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