Ringling Expands Collection with New Guercino



The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art has expanded its permanent collection with the addition of a newly purchased masterwork from the Italian artist Giovanna Francesco Barbieri, more commonly known simply as Guercino. Entitled Portrait of Fra Bonaventura Bisi, called Il Pittorino, the 30.25-by-37-inch oil on canvas dates back to 1658-59 and is currently on display. “Works like this,” says Chris Jones, curator of photography and new media at Ringling Museum, “we want to announce to the public and give them an opportunity to come and see it personally.”

A Baroque master of the 17th century, his name spoken among the likes of Caravaggio and Guido Reni, Guercino rose to fame painting in Bologna and for Pope Gregory XV, and remained notably prolific until his death in 1666, completing 106 large-scale works for the religious houses of the region and nearly 150 paintings. The Ringling already has four Guercinos in its permanent collection, including The Annunciation, purchased by John Ringling himself, but Il Pittorino shows a different side of the artist’s work.

Whereas much of Guercino’s work is highly religious or allegorical, portraying biblical scenes and figures of such import, Il Pittorino sees the artist bringing his gaze closer to Earth with the portrait of a good friend—the artist and Franciscan friar Bonaventura Bisi. Painted fewer than 10 years before his death, the painting remains a prime example of Guercino’s later expressive style and was likely a gift from the artist to Bisi. In the painting, Bisi holds a likeness of Alfonso IV, Duke of Modena and Bisi’s patron.

The addition of such a work to the permanent collection is “fairly infrequent,” according to Jones, and this sort of procurement can happen maybe once a year. “We typically are really judicious when it comes to large acquisitions. But at the same time, the museum always keeps an eye on the auction houses and the art world to see what’s available. “We are always keeping our collection and our mission in mind,” he says. “And we’re always trying to put together a collection that inspires and serves our community.”

Installed in Gallery 11 alongside works by Peter Paul Rubens, Diego Velazquez, Nicholas Regnier and Mattia Preti, Portrait of Fra Bonaventura Bisi, called Il Pittorino by Guercino is now on display.

Image courtesy of the Ringling Museum.

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