Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) (Italian, Cento 1591 - 1666 Bologna)
The Enraged Mars Restrained by Cupid, 1640s
Pen and brown ink with accents of iron gall ink
10 x 7 1/4 in. (25.5 x 18.4 cm)
R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund, 1958
Guercino probably drew this allegorical composition as a study for a painting (now lost). The attempt of Cupid, offspring of the goddess of love, to prevent the god of war from going to battle, represents the tension between love, including the peace it engenders, and war. The urgent, vivid pen strokes not only give the impression of the artist captured in the midst of the creative act, but also heighten the inherent dramatic conflict of the subject.
The lost painting, for which this drawing is a study, was recorded in the inventory of paintings by Guercino made at the time of his death.1 Some years later Giacomo Giovannini (1667-1717) engraved a painting of Mars restrained by Cupid, probably the same work that was in the artist's inventory, inscribed "Marte pronto p[er] combattere tratenuto dal Genio alato" (Mars, prepared for combat, held back by a winged genius).2 Guercino's frequent renditions of Mars with Venus or Cupid, which might all be regarded as meditations upon the tensions between war and peace, were executed for Italian patrons between the late 1620s and the late 1640s. The subject surely had political resonance for Guercino and his patrons.3 In addition to the Thirty Years' War raging to the north (1618-48), much of the Italian peninsula also became a battleground, notably during the Spanish and French quarrel over the succession of Mantua (late 1620s), and the popular revolts against Spanish rule in Naples and Palermo (late 1640s).
The Oberlin drawing is remarkable for its palpably swift execution and the rapid reversals of its emphatic pen-strokes; these qualities would have suggested to contemporary viewers the free and continuous process of the artist's invention and, ultimately, his genius.4 Guercino relied on the spontaneous transformations of the sketch to explore different conceptual directions for a subject, rather than focusing upon the requirements of a particular commission or the composition as a whole.5 Although his paintings changed over time from dramatic, active compositions reinforced by strong chiaroscuro to classically stable organizations of figures illuminated by evenly distributed light, his drawings throughout his career ordinarily retain a sense of compositional and graphic motion.6 Although this drawing was initially dated to about 1628 on the basis of style, recent scholarship has suggested a date of the 1640s, presumably owing to its relationship to the artist's paintings of this approximate date.7
The Oberlin drawing depicts the moment when Mars decides he must resume his martial duties. Although ordinarily it is Venus who attempts to restrain Mars from his destructive path,8 here it is her tiny son who tries to avert the course of war. By omitting Venus, Guercino heightened the contrast between the physical strength of Mars and the ineffectual protests of the infant Cupid.
The subtle variations in design between the Oberlin drawing and Giovannini's engraving reveal Guercino's exploration of alternate ideas for the subject. The engraving represents Mars prepared for battle, feet planted sturdily on the ground, one hand at his waist clutching his cloak, and the other firmly grasping the sword. He looks longingly over his shoulder at the battle in the background, despite the cherub's attempt to pull him away. Erect and poised for battle, the warrior seems to be master of his own fate.
In the Oberlin drawing, however, the god lacks such control over his course of action. He lunges forward from a cloud bank onto a patch of ground as the amorino pulls down on his sword-bearing arm. Forced to drop his shoulder and skew his sword, the warrior twists his head behind him toward what must be the battlefield, and lifts his other arm in that direction, fingers outstretched as if in appeal. This latter gesture transforms a traditional martial motif--the horizontally extended arm half-covered by the warrior's cloak--into the evocation of an emotional state.9 Although Guercino does not make it clear whether Cupid will succeed in preventing war, love's messenger does manage temporarily to deter the force of Mars. In a related drawing,10 Guercino investigates a third possibility: Mars attempts to fight with his shield upraised, and Cupid hangs onto his sword arm to prevent the god from striking.
There are a number of other drawings for the lost painting of Mars restrained by Cupid: a red chalk drawing, in Frankfurt am Main,11 from which a retouched counterproof exists at Windsor Castle;12 and a retouched counterproof of another, related drawing of Mars in half-length, also at Windsor Castle.13Over the course of his career Guercino executed an array of drawings and paintings of Mars similarly attired, and often including Venus or Cupid.14 Additionally, his Hersilia Separating Romulus and Tatius (1645; Paris, Musée du Louvre) represents a helmeted and armed warrior lunging for battle while a woman, representing love, likewise tugs with both hands at his arm.15
Nicknamed Guercino ("the squinter") in his youth, this artist from Cento, a small town near Ferrara in the province of Emilia, was already appreciated by important patrons in other parts of Italy when he was in his twenties. In 1621, he was called to Rome by the newly elected pope Gregory XV, who also hailed from Emilia. Having planned and executed a number of ecclesiastical and private commissions, Guercino returned to his hometown after Gregory's death in 1623. Nevertheless, he became internationally renowned; his work was sought after in France by Marie de' Medici, for example. When Guido Reni, the leading painter in Bologna, died in 1642, Guercino moved and lived there until his death. The house he bought in Bologna, later called the Casa Gennari, housed his studio and subsequently that of his nephews and heirs, Benedetto and Cesare Gennari, and their fam/usr/users/allenart/web/collectionily.
The documentation of Guercino's works is remarkably good, because he kept a record of payments for his commissions in an account book (Libro dei conti) from 1629 til his death in 1666. Additionally, his nephews' family preserved many paintings and drawings until at least 1719, when an inventory was made. Earlier, the seventeenth-century biographer Malvasia had also published a list of Guercino's paintings in the Casa Gennari.
Malvasia, Carlo Cesare. Felsina pittrice. Vol. 2. Bologna, 1678, pp. 358-86.
Mahon, Denis. Studies in Seicento Art and Theory. London, 1947.
Salerno, Luigi. I dipinti di Guercino. Rome, 1988.
Stone, David. Guercino, Master Draftsman: Works from North American Collections. Exh. cat., Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass., 1991.
Turner, Nicholas. In The Dictionary of Art. Edited by Jane Turner. Vol. 13. London and New York, 1996, pp. 784-89.
Collection Benedetto and Cesare Gennari, nephews of artist, Bologna (presumed)
Collection Carlo Gennari (presumed)
With Francesco Forni, Bologna (presumed)
Collection John Bouverie, England (1740s) (presumed)
Collection Christopher Hervey, Bouverie's nephew, England (d. 1786) (presumed)
Collection Elizabeth Bouverie, Hervey's aunt, England (d. 1798) (presumed)
Collection Sir Charles Middleton, England (d. 1813) (presumed)
Collection Charles Noel, created first earl of Gainsborough in 1841, Middleton's grandson (presumed)
With L. Franklyn Gallery, London17
With Schaeffer Galleries, New York, from whom purchased in 1958
Paris, Galerie Sambon, 1929. No cat.
Kenwood, London County Council, 1962. An American University Collection: Works of Art from the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio. 3 May - 30 October. Cat. no. 36.
The Detroit Institute of Arts, 1965. Art in Italy: 1600-1700. 6 April - 9 May. Cat. no. 105.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1966. Treasures from the Allen Memorial Art Museum. 21 July - 11 September. No cat.
L'Amour de l'art 12 (1931), p. 352, fig. 6.
Hamilton, Chloe. "Catalogue of R. T. Miller, Jr. Fund Acquisitions." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 16, no. 2 (Winter 1959), cat. no. 56; no. 3 (Spring 1959), ill. p. 232.
Horton, Anne K. "A Drawing by Guercino." Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 18, no. 1 (1960), pp. 4-19, fig. 1.
Schaeffer Galleries 25th Anniversary Catalogue, 1936-1961. Exh. cat., Schaeffer Galleries, New York, frontispiece.
Mendelowitz, Daniel M. Drawing. New York, 1967, pp. 84, 86, 88, figs. 4-10.
Stechow, Woflgang. Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Oberlin, 1976, p. 33, fig. 121.
Salerno, Luigi. I dipinti di Guercino. Rome, 1988, p. 225, under no. 130, p. 415, under cat. no. 364.
Mahon, Denis, and Nicholas Turner. The Drawings of Guercino in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle. Cambridge, England, 1989, p. 194, under cat. no. 661.
Stone, David M. Guercino, Master Draftsman: Works from North American Collections. Exh. cat., Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass., 1991, p. 221, cat. no. 148, pl. B.
This drawing was executed in rapid strokes with a pen and brown ink, probably iron gall. The watermark on the sheet, a Crowned Shield bearing Flower Petals, is closest to Heawood 792.18 The drawing was formerly mounted in an eighteenth-century "Casa Gennari" style frame (see Provenance) with a watermark similar to Heawood 2795, 2797.19 It was removed from the mount in April 1976 and treated for foxing.20
1. Carlo Cesare Malvasia, Felsina pittrice, vol. 2 (Bologna, 1678), p. 384 (as "Marte furibondo ritenuto da un Amorino").
2. The Illustrated Bartsch, vol. 43, ed. John T. Spike (New York, 1992), ill. p. 310, no. 42 (429).
3. The subject of Mars with Venus or Cupid had meaning for Peter Paul Rubens as a political allegory of the warring state of seventeenth-century Europe; see Reinhold Baumstark, "Ikonographische Studien zu Rubens' Kriegs- und Friedensallegorien," Aachener Kunstblätter 45 (1974), pp. 125-234.
4. On the critical reception of a similar aesthetic in drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, see Ernst H. Gombrich, "Leonardo's Method for Working Out Compositions," in Norm and Form: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance, 4th ed. (Oxford, 1985), pp. 58-63.
5. On Guercino's approach to preparatory studies, see David M. Stone, Guercino, Master Draftsman: Works from North American Collections (exh. cat., Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass., 1991), p. xxiii.
6. Denis Mahon, Studies in Seicento Art and Theory (London, 1947), pp. 17-18.
7. Anne K. Horton, "A Drawing by Guercino," Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 18, no. 1 (1960), pp. 4-19; letter from Denis Mahon in files, dated 11 May 1961; Denis Mahon and Nicholas Turner, The Drawings of Guercino in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle (Cambridge, England, 1989), p. 194, no. 661. The painting Hersilia Separating Romulus and Tatius(dated 1645; Paris, Musée du Louvre) is compositionally very close to the Oberlin drawing.
8. For example, Rubens's 1638 painting, The Horrors of War, in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence; Reinhold Baumstark, "Ikonographische Studien zu Rubens' Kriegs- und Friedensallegorien," Aachener Kunstblätter 45 (1974), pp. 188-201. Historically, artists often represented the choleric temperament of Mars, which drove him to battle, as restrained or annulled by his affection for Venus, goddess of love. Cherubs (amoretti), or a single winged amorino representing Venus's son Cupid, are often shown playing with Mars's armor and instruments of war, undressing the reclining god, or fettering him to Venus. These additions contributed to the notion, inherent to all these works, that love's attraction promoted peace and prevented war. Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance, rev. ed. (New York, 1968), pp. 85-96; and Reinhold Baumstark, op. cit., pp. 125-234, esp. pp. 177-201.
9. E.g., the Apollo Belvedere, Vatican, and one of the so-called Gladiators (or Tyrannicides), Naples; Phyllis Pray Bober and Ruth Rubinstein, Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture: A Handbook of Sources (London, 1986), pp. 71-72, no. 28, and pp. 162-63, no. 127. Guercino used a more martial version of this gesture for his painting of Mars, paired with a Venus and Cupid, at Apsley House, London; Luigi Salerno, I dipinti di Guercino(Rome, 1988), p. 224, no. 130.
10. A Warrior and a Cupid, undated, pen and bister, 22.8 x 19.2 cm; London, Courtauld Institute Galleries, Witt Collection, inv. 1349; Denis Mahon and Nicholas Turner, The Drawings of Guercino in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle (Cambridge, England, 1989), p. 194, under no. 661.
11. Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, inv. no. 6895; Denis Mahon and Nicholas Turner, The Drawings of Guercino in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle (Cambridge, England, 1989), p. 193-94, under no. 661, ill. fig. 35.
12. Denis Mahon and Nicholas Turner, The Drawings of Guercino in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle (Cambridge, England, 1989), p. 194, no. 661. Other drawings that Mahon and Turner connect to the lost painting are (formerly) in the collection of David Koetser, Zurich (sold at Christie's, New York, January 1993, lot 33 ill.); in the British Museum (inv. Ff.2-135); and in the Witt Collection, Courtauld Institute Galleries, London (inv. 1349)
13. Denis Mahon and Nicholas Turner, The Drawings of Guercino in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle (Cambridge, England, 1989), p. 194, no. 662.
14. The paintings include: a half-length Mars (ca. 1628; Knutsford, Cheshire, Tatton Park); a half-length Mars with a pendant representing Venus and Cupid (1630; London, Apsley House); a Mars, Venus, and Cupid (1633; Modena, Pinacoteca Estense); and a seated Mars with a flying Cupid (1648; Cincinnati Art Museum). Reproduced in Luigi Salerno, I dipinti di Guercino (Rome, 1988), p. 217, no. 123 bis; pp. 224-25, nos. 130-131; p. 242, no. 151; and p. 329, no. 257, respectively.
15. David M. Stone, Guercino, Master Draftsman: Works from North American Collections (exh. cat., Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass., 1991), p. 116, fig. 50a.
16. The provenance of this drawing individually is not known with certainty, but it is collectively linked with others bearing mounts that resemble those found on drawings from the collection of the Casa Gennari, Guercino's heirs. It is presumed that when an eighteenth-century Bolognese, Francesco Forni, bought many of the drawings from the Casa Gennari, he mounted them in distinctive frames, a practice which helped to establish their provenance after their eventual dispersal. See Frits Lugt, Les Marques de collections de dessins & d'estampes: Supplement (La Haye, 1956), p. 407, no. 2858c; Denis Mahon, "Drawings by Guercino in the Casa Gennari," Apollo 88, no. 81 (1968), pp. 346-57; David M. Stone, Guercino, Master Draftsman: Works from North American Collections (exh. cat., Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Mass., 1991), p. xxv; Nicholas Turner and C. Plazzotta, Guercino Drawings from British Collections (London, 1991), pp. 19-27, 233-34; and Nicholas Turner, "John Bouverie as a Collector of Drawings," The Burlington Magazine 136 (1994), pp. 90-99.
17. An American University Collection: Works of Art from the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio (exh. cat., Kenwood London County Council, 1962), p. 29, no. 36.
18. Edward Heawood. Watermarks, Mainly of the 17th and 18th Centuries (London, 1950).
19. Wolfgang Stechow, Catalogue of Drawings and Watercolors in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College (Oberlin, 1976), p. 33. The drawing's watermark is illustrated on p. 82.
20. See report by Keiko Keyes, April 1976, in the museum files.