Guercino, Allegory of Painting (c. 1618)

Guercino, Allegory of Painting (c. 1618)
Accession number: 
Ashmolean Museum

In this drawing by Guercino we see a woman seated holding a painting palette - an allegory of painting. The allegory calls to mind allegories of Poetry or Philosophy that adorned Renaissance galleries and palace walls, and points perhaps to the artist's desire to see Painting elevated to the status of these liberal arts. There seems to be a disconnect, however, between the sketch-like nature of the drawing, with the rough shading, particularly in the bottom right corner, and Painting's serious expression and aura of pensiveness. If we were asked to imagine what Guercino might have looked like when drawing this piece, we would perhaps be inclined to say that he would have cut a slightly different figure to this image of refined painterly activity.

Moreover, arguably the most important part of the creative process - the artwork - is not shown here, inviting the onlooker to 'fill in the gaps' by imagining its form and subject.