Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Il Guercino
Three Male Nudes
Red chalk, with traces of black chalk (offset) on paper
Bequeathed by Charles John Lambert (died 1991) with a life interest to his brother, Michael Lambert, relinquished 2006
The English amateur artist and collector John Skippe, who owned this drawing in the eighteenth century, thought it was by the preeminent Bolognese artist Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), and he reproduced it in a chiaroscuro woodcut which asserted that attribution in 1781. Others have attributed it to Annibale's cousin, Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619), but an attribution to the younger Guercino is much more plausible. Guercino was much influenced by the work of both Annibale and Ludovico while living and working in his native Cento, near to Bologna (he finally moved to Bologna on the death of his great rival, Guido Reni, in 1642). This drawing, which can be dated 1615-18 on stylistic grounds, shows Guercino's interest in the fresco decorations of the Carracci in Bologna, and the composition suggests that he was considering ideas for a telamon - a figure of a man used as a supporting pillar. It was during this time (1616-18) that Guercino opened an academy for life drawing in the house of one of his patrons in Cento, Bartolomeo Fabbri.