This drawing is characteristic of Guercino's mature landscapes, almost all of which are drawn in pen and ink. Most of his landscapes seem to be inspired by the countryside around Guercino's home town of Cento where he spent the majority of his career save a brief an unsuccessful period in Rome in the 1620s. These drawings do not seen to relate to any documented paintings, many of which in any event have little or no landscape details. They must therefore have been intended as finsihed works made both for the artist's pleasure and for the growing band of collectors who clamoured for his work.
Guercino drawings have always been particularly sought after in England, as Mariette noted in his Abécédario 'Les Anglois sont passionnés pour les desseins de Guerchin'. The majority of Guercino drawings were brought to England in the mid 18th Century, with large collections put together by John Bouverie in the 1740s, by Richard Dalton for King George III in the 1750s and 1760s, and by the enterprising dealer Thomas Kent in the 1750s. The Bouverie drawings were retained in the family until at least the 19th Century, King George's drawings are now at Windsor and Thomas Kent's were sold anonymously in London in 1762. As the present drawing must have been in England before the death of Arthur Pond in 1758 it is tempting to speculate that it may have been one of the group brought to London by Guercino's nephew Benedetto Gennari when he worked at the court of King Charles II and King James II in 1674-1689. A series of landscapes of similar composition to the present drawing but of larger size were sold by Gennari to William Cavendish, later 1st Duke of Devonshire, and are now at Chatsworth (M. Jaffé, The Devonshire Collection of Italian Drawings, Bolognese and Emilian Schools, London, 1994, nos. 579-585).
We are grateful to Nicholas Turner for confirming the attribution of this drawing to Guercino.