Giovanni Guerra

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Giovanni Guerra
(Modena 1544–1618 Rome)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Saved from the Fiery Furnace

Inscribed at lower center, in pen and brown ink, F. Zucaro.

Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over traces of black chalk
7 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches (197 x 222 mm)

Purchased as the gift of the Fellows, 1965

Item description: 

Together with Cesare Nebbia, Guerra was one of the two superintendents of painting for Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585–90), who commissioned from them extensive fresco cycles for the Vatican Library, Santa Maria Maggiore, and the Holy Steps.

In this scene from the Book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are brought before King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon for having refused to worship a golden idol (presumably the oversized statue resembling the king at right). When thrown into a fiery furnace, they are miraculously saved by an angel, causing Nebuchadnezzar to extend his protection to the Jewish people. The story centers on one of the crucial tenets of the Counter-Reformation: the Catholic reaffirmation of the veneration of images in the face of the Protestant accusation of idolatry.