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Giovanni Barbieri, called from his squinting, "Il Guercino"; a famous painter of religious subjects; b. at Cento, near Bologna, 2 February, 1591; d. at Bologna, 22 December, 1666. His parents were in very humble circumstances. It is related that he gave such early indication of his great talents that before he reached the age of ten he had painted on the front wall of his home a figure of the Virgin. His first instructor was Bartolommeo Bertozzi, and when sixteen he entered the school of Benedetto Gennari, the elder, at Cento. As a youth he had studied with great admiration a famous painting of Ludovico Carracci at the convent of the Capuchins at Cento, which had much influence on his work. Father Mirandola, head of the convent, took Barbieri under his protection, had him taught, and secured him commissions.

After spending some time in Bologna, where he studied with Cremonini and Gennari, the young painter went to Venice, where he received the counsels of Palma. At Ferrara he painted the portrait of the legate, Cardinal Jacopo Serra, who made him a chevalier. On the invitation of Cardinal Ludovisi, later Pope Gregory XV, he went to Rome. There he did the "Aurora" at the Villa Ludovisi, and his celebrated painting of St. Petronilla in the Capitol. After the death of his papal patron, Barbieri, refusing the invitations of James I to go to England and of Louis XIII to visit France, returned to Cento and established there an academy which was much frequented by foreign as well as native painters. He painted the portraits of the Duke of Modena, and after the death of Guido, whose style he imitated, he settled at Bologna, where he died, leaving much wealth.


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