Marciari, John. Guercino : virtuoso draftsman. New York : Morgan Library & Museum, in association with Paul Holberton Publishing, 2019, no. 3a, repr.
Daniele Benati. Collezione di antichi maestri emiliani. Exh. cat. Bologna: Galleria Fondantico, 1996, 101-2.
Helston, Michael and Francis Russell. Guercino in Britain: Paintings from British Collections, London : National Gallery : Burlington Magazine, c1991, pp. 20-21.
The Morgan has a printed copy of the drawing manual, PML 77722.1.
By 1616, Guercino had established his Accademia del Nudo in Cento, teaching students to draw from live models, a practice clearly inspired by knowledge of the Carracci academy in Bologna. A growing workload, and especially a series of important commissions from Cardinal Ludovisi in Bologna and Cardinal Serra in Ferrara, meant that Guercino had to close the Accademia. It was probably against this background, however, that Padre Antonio Mirandola, Guercino's early patron and protector, asked the artist to create a set of drawings for the instruction of future painters. The drawings adhere closely to the model of three drawing manuals published in the decade leading up to 1617: Odoardo Fialetti's Il vero modo et ordine per dissegnar tutte le parti et membra del corpo humano of 1608, Giacomo Franco's De excellentia et nobilitate delineationis libri duo of 1611/12, and the Scuola perfetta per imparare a disegnare tutto il corpo humano cavata dallo studio, e disegnari de Carracci, a series of prints by Luca Ciamberlano first published as a book around 1609-14, but reflecting drawings made by the Carracci during the early years of the Accademia degli Incamminati, in the 1580s and 1590s. Moreover, Guercino took these drawings with him to Venice when he traveled there in 1618 with Padre Pietro Martire Pederzani and supposedly showed the works to Palma Giovane, who had probably been involved in the Fialetti and Franco books. In the wake of his trip, Guercino's drawings were engraved by Oliviero Gatti and were published in 1619 with a frontispiece dedicated to Ferdinando Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua (fig. 3.1).(2) There is no actual title for the work itself, but it has become known as the Book of the Principles of Drawing (I Principi del Disegno) or Libro dei Disegni. The work was reprinted a number of times. The Roman publisher Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi added the inscription questo è il vero originale to the bottom of the title page (as seen in the copy at the Morgan, which is his edition); this was to distinguish his prints, struck from the original plates, from the many copies, including one published by Pierre Mariette in Paris in 1642 and one published by Bernardino Curti in Reggio Emilia in 1650. Copies of the plates were also included in several larger collections of model-book drawings, such as the 1644 Livre de Portraiture published by Bathasar Moncornet, which combined Guercino's designs with those from similar manuals by Fialetti and Jacques Callot.
Guercino had no previous relationship with the printmaker Gatti, who was brought into the project by Padre Mirandola. Gatti had worked with Agostino Carracci early in his career, but, in the years after Agostino's death in 1602, he was associated with the Accademia dei Mirandola and worked with Giovanni Luigi Valesio; it was in this context that he was known to Padre Mirandola.(3)
The published version of the drawing manual consists of twenty-two plates, beginning with the dedicatory page and continuing with plates focusing on eyes, ears, and noses and mouths. The Morgan drawings correspond to plates 4 and 5 (figs. 3.2 and 3.3).(4) Subsequent pages of the manual study hands, feet, limbs, torsos, and half-length figures. Preparatory drawings for the title page with an allegorical figure of painting are in the Royal Collection at Windsor(5) and in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford,(6) but these exploratory sheets represent an earlier stage of the design process than do the Morgan drawings, which match the printed designs closely, albeit in reverse. Indeed, the dedicatory title page was probably not part of the original set of drawings but was created only when the decision to publish was made in 1619, so it is not surprising that different types of drawings survive for it. The known drawings related to the other twenty-one plates, such as the pair in the collection of Anne Searle Bent in Chicago,(7) match the printed plates closely, akin to the Morgan preparatory studies. While the Morgan drawings have been laid down and their versos are not visible, the back of the Chicago drawings appear to have been prepared with a lead white ground, which would have been used to transfer the design to the plate when the drawings of the rectos were incised. Other drawings that can be counted among the preparatory studies for the prints are a sheet sold at Drouot, Paris, 25 March 2015, lot 3, later in a private collection in Bologna (a study for plate 11 in the manual), and a drawing sold at Christie's, London, 8 July 2008, lot 21 (the preparatory drawing for plate 20 in the manual).(8) As Nicholas Turner has noted, many of the individual motifs found in the drawing-manual studies appear in Guercino's paintings from his early years in Cento.(9) Perhaps the pen and ink drawings that served as the model for Gatti's engravings were clean copies by Guercino of elements found in earlier drawings made as preparatory studies for those paintings, even though few such studies have survived. -- Catalog entry: John Marciari. Guercino : virtuoso draftsman. Morgan Library & Museum, 2019, p. 34-35.
(1) The two related drawings (Bent collection, Chicago; see McCullagh 2012, no. 82), studies for plates 6 and 7 of the drawing manual, are laid down on mounts closely akin to those of the Morgan drawings, but more of the mounts remain, making it possible to identify them as Ottley's; the Morgan drawings thus were presumably also owned by Ottley.
2) Purchased as the gift of Mr. Robert Goelet and Mr. Lucien Goldschmidt; PML 77722.1. Guercino's assistant Lorenzo Gennari took a presentation copy of the engraved drawings to Mantua; in return, the duke awarded Guercino with a commission to paint a canvas of his choosing, which eventually became the Erminia and the shepherd now in the Birmingham City Museums and Art Gallery; see Helston, Russell, and Henry 1991, 20-21.
(3) Bagni 1988, 6-7, 174-77.
(4) Purchased as the gift of Mr. Robert Goelet and Mr. Lucien Goldschmidt; PML 77722.1.
(5) Inv. RCIN 902730; see Mahon and Turner 1989, no. 11.
(6) Inv. WA1948.92; see Turner and Plazzotta 1991, no. 20.
(7) See McCullagh 2012, no. 82. The drawings are a promised gift to the Art Institute of Chicago.
(8) Some additional drawings recently on the art market, however, in red chalk and in the same direction as the printed images, should be considered copies after the prints rather than preparatory drawings for them. Similarly, a drawing in pen and ink corresponding to plate 3 of the drawing manual, offered for sale at Bonham's, New York, 29 October 2010, lot 7, in the same orientation as the print, is a copy rather than a preparatory drawing.
(9) See Turner in McCullagh 2012, no. 82, as well as Turner 2017, 132-33, 344-45.
Mirandola, Antonio, 1573-1648, former owner.
Ottley, William Young, 1771-1836, former owner.
Nobile, Maurizio, former owner.