Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pittura e Scultura

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri   "Allegory of Painting and Sculpture"  1637
 Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica
Giovanni Barbieri (1591-1666) was an Italian Baroque painter active in Rome and Bologna, known more commonly by the nick-name of "Il Guercino," the squinting one. It was the custom in those days for people to go by names suggested by their physical appearance, and Barbieri's self-portrait of 1635 unflinchingly portrays his squint, in effect he was what would be called "cross-eyed".  Fortunately, this physical difference in no way impaired his vision or his artistic output which was prodigious and skilled. Barbieri was particularly noted for the rapidity of his artistic executions.

I was surprised to read that each of the figures in this painting is considered to be female, as my initial impression was of a female painter and a male sculptor. But looking more carefully I can see that there has been some attempt made to persuade the viewer of Scultura's femininity, from a nipped-in waist, to tapering hands. Looking at Scultura's thick neck and massive shoulders however, as well as her heavy-jawed face, it is hard for me to think otherwise than that Guercino used a male model for this figure, and later made an attempt to edit him into a female. Precursor of Photoshop?!

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