The burial of St Petronilla and Guercino in Rome

SERIES: From VIVE to the city. The history of art in Rome in the 15th-20th centuries - Under the aegis of Silvia Ginzburg, professor of the History of Modern Art, Università di Roma Tre
SPEAKER: Daniele Benati
DATE: Thursday 22 June, 6 pm
PLACE: Palazzo Venezia, Sala del Refettorio

When Pope Gregory XV wanted a huge altarpiece depicting the burial and reception into Heaven of St Petronilla, now conserved in the Musei Capitolini, for St Peter’s Basilica, for Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino (Cento 1591–Bologna 1666), it represented a major recognition of his art in Rome, where he had arrived in the summer of 1621. Commissioned on 28 December of that year, while the painter was still decorating the Ludovisi Casino at Porta Pinciana, the painting was completed and placed on the altar in 1623. As demonstrated by numerous surviving preparatory studies, its exceptional size and extraordinarily prestigious intended location prompted Guercino to reprocess the expressive media previously adopted in favour of a strongly theatricalised naturalism which, however, totally lacked the deference to the ancient world peculiar to the contemporary classicist trend.  


Daniele Benati is a professor of the History of Modern Art at the Università di Bologna. Specialising in the art of Emilia-Romagna between the 14th and 18th centuries, he has written numerous publications and curated several exhibitions, including ones on the 14th century (Rimini 1993 and 2021), Guido Cagnacci (Rimini 1992 and Forlì, 2007), Annibale Carracci (Bologna, Rome 2006-2007) and Guercino (Piacenza, 2017, Cento, 2019). He is vice president of the Fondazione Roberto Longhi in Florence.