Guercino at the Villa Ludovisi

Many fine compendiums of research are derived from many years of planning, from the meticulous coordination of the finest scholars to turn a subject inside out. And then there are those in which strands of contemporary scholarly discourse converge in a single volume. The latter describes this study, in which the stars have aligned to facilitate a heretofore unparalleled investigation into the work of Guercino’s at the Villa Ludovisi in Rome.

The collection begins with Alessandro Zuccari’s appraisal of the wall paintings in the Villa, written between 2018 and 2019 at the request of the Court of Rome. This study turns the spotlight on Guercino’s wall decorations: their uniqueness, their intrinsic historical and artistic value.

This acts as a preamble to new research, namely the technical imaging of Guercino’s Aurora and Dawn, Honour, and Virtue, which adorn the two main halls of the Villa, coordinated by Barbara Ghelfi as part of the project: ‘Guercino Beyond Colour’. This was undertaken with the help of Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi, in collaboration with the diagnostic laboratory at the Cultural Heritage Department of the University of Bologna.

On the basis of this diagnostic research, it was necessary to conduct a wider investigation into the artist’s time with the Ludovisi family. On relocating from Bologna to Rome, the painter encountered other artists already employed by the noble family, such as Domenichino, Giovanni Battista Viola, Giovanni Luigi Vales. At the same time, his proximity to Agostino Tassi brought him access to the finest architectural projects. These encounters informed the evolution of Guercino’s artistic style, evident in the refined quality of the work that adorns the walls and ceilings of the Villa.

The studies are revelatory, enriching existing scholarship on the Villa Ludovisi by the pre-eminent Sir Denis Mahon.


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