Monday, January 18, 2010

Toledo Museum of Art Unveils Guernico

Guernico, Lot and His Daughter, c. 1651-1652

It is a gap in its impressive collection of 17th-century masterworks that the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) has been trying to fill for more than 50 years. A work by Bolognese master Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, commonly known as Guercino (“the squinter”), has been a long-sought-after addition to the TMA collection.
Guercino’s vibrant Lot and His Daughters (about 1651-1652) was acquired by the Museum in October of 2009. The large painting (176 x 231 cm / 69 ¼ x 90 7/8 inches) will be unveiled to Museum members and the general public on Friday, Jan. 22 during a 7 p.m. ceremony in the Museum’s Great Gallery. Lot and His Daughters will temporarily hang in the gallery’s most prominent location, normally reserved for Peter Paul Rubens’ Crowning of St. Catherine, which will be relocated to an adjacent wall. The move will result in several additional works being relocated within the gallery in order to show the new Guercino to its best advantage.
According to Lawrence Nichols, TMA’s William Hutton Curator of European and American painting and sculpture before 1900, Guercino is an Italian Baroque painter of the highest rank, and an appropriate example of his work has been sought for the Museum’s collection for decades.
Nichols has considered other Guercino paintings over the years but noted, “The quality of the composition and the story-telling power of his Lot and His Daughters is truly masterful. The preservation and condition of the canvas are remarkable; the picture radiates and commands one’s attention in the context of our Great Gallery.”
The painting was purchased with funds from the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment, a fund that is restricted to the purchase of works of art. The painting had been in the hands of a private Italian collector for many years prior to it being offered to TMA earlier this year.
The last time the Museum acquired a work by an Italian baroque painter was 1983 when, coincidentally, the Museum acquired Artemisia Gentileschi’s Lot and His Daughters. Visitors will be able to compare the two canvasses, and how the scene is represented by both a female artist (Gentileschi) and a male (Guercino).
Toledo’s Guercino is actually the third full-length painting of Lot and his daughters that the artist painted over a two-year period. An Italian collector first commissioned the work from Guercino, but had to wait when the first two works were purchased for the Duke of Modena and the Duchess of Mantua. Those works now hang in the Dresden State Art Museum and the Louvre, Paris, respectively.