Giovanni Francesco Barberi, called Guercino

Produced in the early years of Guercino’s career, this study relates to a now- lost fresco that once adorned the façade of the Palazzo Tanari in Bologna. In contrast to the drawing by Lemoyne on view nearby, here we encounter the mythical hero Hercules pensively leaning on his club, at rest after a battle. His left foot is placed on the Hydra, the multiheaded serpentine monster that he has just defeated. Guercino’s delicate, spidery pen lines have an exploratory quality, while the heavy brown wash is used to convey strong chiaroscuro effects, defining and highlighting individual forms.

Giovanni Francesco Barberi, called Guercino
Italian, 1591–1666
The triumphant Hercules with the vanquished Hydra, ca. 1618
Pen and brown ink, and brush and brown wash, on buff paper
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Richard and Mary L. Gray; 2019.879
Gray Collection Trust, Art Institute of Chicago