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Giovanni Guerra drawing on sale

Column Paintings and drawings, Appraisal and valuation

During the exhibition "Mois du dessin" in Paris, the gallery Tarantino presents " Paint in Rome: pictures and drawings from the 17th and 18th centuries".  Among the exposed works, a rare drawing of Giovanni Guerra uses introduction to the chronological journey.  Our expert analyzes this drawing recently discovered and publishes for the first time in this exposition, opened until April 21 2011.  





Cabinet expert dessins anciens

Giovanni GUERRA
(Modène, 1544 – Rome, 1618)

Plume et lavis d’encre brune
301 x 148 mm. cintré en haut
Provenance : coll. part.
Bibliographie : inédit 


The career of Giovanni Will Heal, born to Modene, in 1544, is known only from his arrival to Rome, in 1562.  Francesco Forciroli in Vite dei modenesi illustri circa 1618, first biographie of Guerra does not provide any details on our artist scholarship apart that he was also architect and illustrator.


His style, on the other hand, based on powerful chiaroscuro, indicates his Italian culture forged to the contacts of the works of Lelio Orsi (Novellara, c.1508/11 - id.  1587), or of the one of its disciples Marcantonio del Forno or Domenico da Modena.  The latter, participate, after 1574, to the decoration of the basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome.  This church still hold two paintings by the master in particular Adoration of the Child Jesus by the seven angels (fig.  1) that could have influenced the author of our Assumption.  A link reinforced by the activity of the closest assistants of Giovanni Guerra to the setting of the basilica:  Girolamo Muziano (Brescia, circa 1532 – Rome, 1592) and Cesare Nebbia (Orvieto, circa 1536 – id., 1614).  The latter worked with Guerra to the paintings of the Gregorian chapel in Saint-Pierre-de-Rome from 1579 to 1583, before seeing their works join again in Santa Maria degli Angeli. 


Assurance collection dessins - Inventaire préalable 

Figure 1. Domenico da Modena. Adoration de l'Enfant Jésus par les sept anges. Roma. Santa Maria degli Angeli.


The presence of Guerra is not attested by archive documents there, but it is attractive to see in our Assumption, the project of a work answering ideally to the iconographic program developed in a church recently dedicated to the Virgin Mary and to seven angels. For the one in Rome, or the one in Modena, for which Guerra supplies the plans in 1596, the painter-architect would have underlined the importance of the archangels of the foreground, by isolating them from the choir of the angels who accompany traditionally the Virgo in the sky, to answer to the choices of his patrons.


The format of the composition indicates a study for a picture of altar. Three light parallel strokes of the pen, situated in the superior half of the sheet suggest the cavity of a niche. This plan could be the one applied to a mural painting, accommodated in a place illusionist. Giovanni Guerra mastered the fresco, technique which he used on his first construction site, in Rome for the decoration of the palace Censi, by 1583.


The composition, staged in three registers, is unified by the set of gestures and glances. The same set draws the dynamic structure of the picture which borrows the circuit serpentine and upward used by Ludovic Carrache (Bologna, on 1555 - id. 1619) in his Madonna of saint Luc, dated 1592 (Paris, Musée du Louvre). This visual process allows the spectator to get the totality of the composition immediately. His glance takes symbolically the road which leads the Virgo to the Paradise where the Lord is waiting for her. Giovanni Guerra, by following the way of the eloquent painting dictated by Carrache, joins of the Counter-Reformation part movement, introduced by the Council of Thirty ( 1545-1563 ).


This support to modernity conjugates to the former mannerist formulae: curtains of faces, slight and lengthened silhouettes, linear stroke of the pen, here, flooded in the brown washing, at the origin of violent contrasts of shade and light which characterize Giovanni Guerra's graphic production. This one, relatively plentiful in the field of the illustration, but on the other hand, is very incomplete in the kind of the monumental and religious painting. A paradoxical situation, while Giovanni Guerra, assisted by numerous assistants, was the inventor of multiple ornamental projects ordered by popes Sixte Quint ( 1585-1590 ) and Clément XIII ( 1592-1605 ) to renew and embellish the Eternal City.


We are very gratefull to Stefano Pierguidi who confirmed the attibution to Guerra. 


Bertrand Dumas : Old master painting and drawing specialist


Notes :

1- Sur la formation du peintre à Modène dans le giron de Marcantonio del Forno et de Domenico da Modena, voir Claudio Strinati, Un'ipotesi sulla formazione di Giovanni Guerra, in Jadranka Bentini, Lelio Orsi e la cultura del suo tempo, atti del convegno internazionale di studi, Reggio Emilia, Novellara, 25 – 29 janvier, 1988, Bologne, Nuova Alfa Editoriale, c. 1990, pp. 151-153.

2- Tableau dans la chapelle Saint-Sauveur, en face d'une Incarnation de Jésus. Reproduit dans Strinati, 1988 (c.1990), p. 159, fig.1.

3- Girolamo Muziano, Le sermon de saint Jérôme, avant 1592, baptistère, et Cesare Nebbia, Noli me tangere, après 1579, chapelle Sainte-Madeleine, Santa Maria degli Angeli e Martiri, Rome.

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