The Ringling's Guercino's Friar with a Gold Earring

Arts & Culture

Pictured: Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri; Italian, 1591-1666), Fra Bonaventura Bisi, oil on canvas, 94 x 76.5 cm. Museum purchase, 2015, SN11531. Courtesy of The Ringling Museum of Art.

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of Italian Baroque master Guercino and The Ringling Museum of Art, a painting may be worth even more. In The Ringling’s latest exhibit, Guercino’s Friar with a Gold Earring: Fra Bonaventura Bisi, Painter and Art Dealer, which opens October 14, one painting is a looking glass into an entire era of art–the Italian Baroque period.

“This exhibition focuses on a portrait we purchased in 2015 by Guercino, the 17th century Bologense painter. He painted this Franciscan Friar, Fra Bonaventura Bisi and the friar is a fascinating figure because he was connected to many different artists, artmaking and art collecting in the first half of the 17th century,” says Sarah Cartwright, The Ringling’s Ulla R. Searing Curator of Collections. “An artist himself, he was also an art dealer for important clients, particularly in the realm of drawings in a time where the appreciation of drawings as an autonomous art form was still in its infancy.”

The exhibition uses Geurcino’s portrait of the friar as a gateway into the world Bisi operated in. The connections Bisi had were immense: from fellow religious leaders to painters and artists to intellectuals, Bisi was a critical figure in the Italian Baroque period. “Through the exhibition, we can learn that there was a lot behind this unassuming man in religious robes. He did a lot of other things in addition to his religious duties, he was a mover and a shaker in his society,” says Cartwright. “That's a surprise in itself that people might not realize–that a religious figure was connected to this commercial world of art dealing and all of his proceeds from art dealing went to the Church.”

The exhibition is composed of pieces of the period, from the oil paintings, drawings, prints and metalwork that Bisi had his hands on to the miniature tempera paintings on parchment that the friar made himself. Also featured are writings and illustrations from Bisi’s contemporaries that tell of Bisi’s influence on the art world. While the exhibition may be inspired by just one portrait, it takes a much larger collection of art and literature to paint the entire picture of Fra Bonaventura Bisi.

The Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota.

Pictured: Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri; Italian, 1591-1666), Fra Bonaventura Bisi, oil on canvas, 94 x 76.5 cm. Museum purchase, 2015, SN11531. Courtesy of The Ringling Museum of Art.

To learn more, visit

« View The Friday Oct 6, 2023 SRQ Daily Edition
« Back To SRQ Daily Archive

Read More

Arts Advocates Announces July and August 2024 Events

Arts Advocates Announces July and August 2024 Events

Jun 18, 2024

Selby Gardens Botanist Makes 'Miracle' Discovery

Selby Gardens Botanist Makes 'Miracle' Discovery

Philip Lederer | Jun 14, 2024

The Baby-Sitters Club and Beyond: The Eclectic Art of Hodges Soileau

The Baby-Sitters Club and Beyond: The Eclectic Art of Hodges Soileau

Philip Lederer | Jun 7, 2024

There is Still Time to Register for Summer Art Camp at ACS

There is Still Time to Register for Summer Art Camp at ACS

Jun 4, 2024