Guercino (born Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), 1591-1666
The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1654-55
Oil on canvas, 155.6 x 146.1 cm (61-1/4 x 57-1/2 in.)
The parable depicted by Il Guercino (a nickname meaning "squint-eyed") is the one most frequently represented in Western art for teaching repentance and forgiveness. Taken from Luke 15:11- 32, the story tells of a younger son who squanders his share of the family's estate and returns home to beg his father's forgiveness. Guercino shows the moment when the impoverished son is welcomed with compassion by his father. He sends a servant to bring fine clothes for his penitent son and to kill a fatted calf for a feast. Guercino painted the subject on seven different occasions, beginning in 1619.
Like other late works by the artist, this one is characterized by its clarity and simplicity.
Archbishop Girolamo Boncompagni
The princes Colonna
The marquis of Landsdowne, his sale, Christie’s, London, March 7, 1930, lot 443
Matthiesen Fine Art, London, 1981
Acquired by the Putnam Foundation, 1983