Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Guercino
1591 - 1666
Study of a woman with a mortar and pestle
Second quarter 17th Century
Brown ink on paper
241 × 188 mm. (9 ½ × 7 ⅜ in.)
Numbered lower left: "25"
Provenance:Jean-Luc Baroni Ltd;
Private Collection, France.
Further information:Studies occupied an important place in Guercino's graphic work, especially in the preparatory process for his paintings. Of a remarkable freshness and with lively mark-making emblematic of the artist, this study represents a woman preoccupied in her daily routine, using a mortar and pestle. Such truthfulness can also be found in the works of the Carracci, such as Annibale's 'The Bean Eater' at the Galleria Colonna, in Rome.
The figure on this sheet reminds of the woman, also using a mortar and pestle, in 'Interior of a kitchen', c.1624, at the Courtauld Institute of Art (260 x 403 mm; D.1952.RW.1347). Similarly, Guercino focused on the woman's upper body, leaving it relatively finished, while her lower body is merely suggested with a flurry of lines. Stylistically this study relates to his work of the 1630s, when his drawing style became more elegant with frequent calligraphic turns, the ink 'often sympathetically lighter in tone than the iron-gal ink usually employed' (Turner and Plazzotta, 1991, p. 102). With its energetic lines, its focus on details, such as the hair, leaving other parts of the body incomplete, its quickly executed hatching to add depth to the figures, and the very dark eye sockets of the figure, this drawing can be compared to 'The Visitation', 1632 (Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, RCIN 902793), as well as to 'Bathsheba attended by her maid' (ill. in Julian Brooks, 'Guercino: Mind to Paper', exhibition catalogue, 2006, no. 28). The latter can be dated to c.1640, as it is probably a study for a painting commissioned by Conte Astorre Ercolani in that year.
The state of preservation of this drawing is remarkable, free from any signs of deterioration which often is caused by the ink utilized by Guercino.