In 1619 Oliviero Gatti (fl. 1596-1626) published a pattern book after drawings by Guercino (see N. Turner, Drawings from Windsor Castle, exhib. cat., Fort Worth, Washington and New York, 1992, no. 8). This manual was intended for instructing the beginner in drawing through 22 plates of anatomical and character studies. The present sheet belongs to the latter group, and is engraved in reverse as plate 20 of the series.
The delicate penmanship corresponds in style with that of the few other known preparatory drawings by Guercino for this set of prints. For the frontispiece Guercino drew an Allegory of Painting representing the coat-of-arms of the Duke of Mantua, Ferdinando Gonzaga, to whom the manual was dedicated (Windsor Castle, inv. no. 2730; N. Turner, op. cit., no. 8). The original drawings by Guercino belonged to Padre Antonio Mirandola, the young artist's patron and friend, and later to Padre Pietro Martire Pederzani who took them to Venice, accompanied by Guercino, where they were shown to Palma Giovane.
The tradition of pattern books developed initially in Holland at the end of the 16th Century; Guercino's collaboration with Gatti produced one of the first examples of Italian pattern books.
We are grateful to Nicholas Turner for confirming the attribution and for his help in cataloguing this drawing.