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Saint Mary Magdalene

circa 1624-1625
17th century
114.94 cm x 94.3 cm (45 1/4 in. x 37 1/8 in.)

Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) (Cento, Italy, 1591 - 1666, Bologna, Italy) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: Europe, Italian
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
            
               Accession Number:                2017.1170             
            
Object Description: Guercino's style, its optical intensity and sensory appeal, offered an alternative to the more schematic naturalism of Caravaggio and the early classicism of Annibale Carracci. Guercino, however, was reciprocally affected by those prevailing currents, as well as by the weight of the city’s earlier artistic traditions. Just as other painters like Giovanni Lanfranco and Pietro da Cortona began to explore and extend the possibilities of Guercino’s style, he tempered them. This painting is an excellent example of Guercino’s shift toward a less intuitive style in the aftermath of his sojourn in Rome. Transcending her contemplation of death and repentance of sins, the Magdalene looks heavenward in a rapture that is echoed by the shaft of light from the upper left. Because her figure derives from a painting of around 1619, a Raising of Lazarus in the Louvre, Guercino’s development is all the more apparent. The composition is more deliberate, its forms more constructed, his touch more measured. What painting may have lost in restless vitality, it has gained in solemn power. Later, however, these tendencies would lead to an ever more self-conscious, and nonetheless beautiful, approximation of Baroque classicism. When Guercino went to Rome in 1621-23, he brought with him the style of the Suida-Manning Collection’s exquisite Landscape, to the left. That style, its optical intensity and sensory appeal, offered an alternative to the more schematic naturalism of Caravaggio and the early classicism of Annibale Carracci. Guercino, however, was reciprocally affected by those prevailing currents, as well as by the weight of the city’s earlier artistic traditions. Just as other painters like Giovanni Lanfranco and Pietro da Cortona began to explore and extend the possibilities of Guercino’s style, he tempered them.

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