This drawing, which does not appear to be connected with any of Guercino's surviving paintings, is likely to date from the 1640s, probably after 1642 when the artist returned to Bologna following the death of his rival Guido Reni. Many of Guercino's drawings from this period were done purely in pen with a fine nib, the shading applied in delicately drawn passages of parallel hatching - as seen in the contrasting textures of the man's cloak with its fur-trimmed collar in the present drawing. These more 'classically' conceived pen studies derive from an Emilian tradition of pen drawing whose practitioners included Parmigianino, Agostino Carracci and Reni.
In pose and technique this drawing is similar to one at Windsor, a study of a High Priest in a circumcision in the altarpiece The Circumcision of 1645-46.
The drawing was part of a large group of drawings by Guercino bought by Dan Fellows Platt in the mid 1920's from Parson's in Brompton Road, London. Parson had bought them at the 1922 Earl of Gainsborough sale, held at Christie's, London, on 27 July, 1922. The Earl of Gainsborough property in that sale numbered only 14 lots, but these nevertheless comprised nearly 500 drawings, of which 200 were by Guercino, many of them secured by Parson's. Guercino's drawings from the Earl of Gainsborough's collection all came from the Casa Gennari (see N.Turner, in Drawings by Guercino from British Collections, exhib. cat., London, The British Museum, 1991, pp.21-7).
We are grateful to Nicholas Turner for confirming the attribution and his assistance in cataloguing this lot.