"The day 4th January 1629 in Cento. This book will be used to keep track of all the money that will be earned and spent by my brother Gio. Francesco and by me, Paolo Antonio Barbieri, painters in Cento, money which will be written in order, and by the end of the year they will be summed, as I will report the sum of what will be spent on maintenance of the family." So the Guercino, along with his brother Paolo Antonio, his partner, collaborator and modest painter of still lifes, instituted the book of accounts, records of payments received for his paintings, very valuable because it allows you to identify the works by Guercino and dates of their composition.
Having painted the ceiling of a Sampieri-Talon Palace in Bologna with a Hercules and Antaeus, he received by Queen Maria of France, by Cardinal Bernardino Spada, the commission for the Death of Dido, which did not go to fruition, but the painting it was bought by Cardinal. "One sees the abandoned lover, lying face down on the stake, he pierced his chest with the sword of the Trojan man, and with great difficulty she holds her hands resting on the same pyre; rushes in so atrocious spectacle his sister Anna, with some consternated and painful bridesmaids, among courtiers and guards, and you can see in the distance the port of Carthage and Aeneas fleeing sails, with the people unnecessarily crowding the beach, while a cupid flyes through the air like he also walks away as a fugitive; everything is put with wise foresight, he only had painted a young man dressed as the Spaniard, who looks like a portrait and mentioning with his hand Dido".
The historian highlighted the serious flaw of lack of sincerity in the work: seeing such a great tragedy, you can not put posing a character who is not interested in what happens; it adds, however, that the Reni would bring this canva as an example for his students, showing them how they should use the colors. The Marangoni sees instead "a caricature of the beautiful memory of the Guercino; no sense of composition, shapes that do not stand and do not weigh, a sprawl of open hands; random heightened draperies, without conviction and luministic sensitivity, and a narrow-minded and childish meticulousness in loosing around to jewelry, to embroidery and to most insignificant details that will be one of the bad habits of the last manner of the painter."
In 1633, when he turned 42 years old, some of his friends tried to persuade him to take a wife, but there was no way: Guercino seems to have been all intended to work and eager to remain "for the whole life dissolved and free". He declined the appealing invitation by Louis XIII to move to France, and he also declined another invitation to go to England.
As he had finally chosen to remain celibate and to stay in Italy, he had established his pictorial choices, "the Cento Artificer studying moderating in part, and as appropriate, to stain pride so pleasing others, and this was his election and no decay or lack of vigor and fire; advancing with the years in experience and in hindsight, he often, without change his style, the pristine temperate power of color, and approached the vagueness, and with more choice of parts the beautiful and simple Nature he has been able to imitate."
According to the neoclassical Calvi, the imitation of nature is obviously achieved through the academicism and in the "simple nature" we find the intellectualistic "ideal beauty". In fact, Guercino chased the manner of Reni and his customers: in fact, the latter died in Bologna on August 8, 1642, and then Guercino moved there from Cento, no longer having “to fear the comparison of such an excellent and celebrated composer”.
Guido Reni left unfinished a large canvas with a San Bruno destined to the monks of the Certosa of Bologna. Guercino refused the request to complete it, by offering them a work painted by him. So in 1647 he painted The Vision of St. Bruno, "one of the most vigorous and exciting altarpieces of the late period", in which the saint, in the solitude of the desert, has a vision of the Madonna and Child, while one of his companions, not far away, meditates on a book, celebrated for “strength and color vagueness”, the saint “blows in his face a deep affection, and had dry skin, as befits to one who is frequently exposed to the ardor of the sun, where on the contrary the Child and the Virgin have fresh and soft colored flesh.”
According to the anti-academic criticism, however, the work is "beautiful faces and beautiful limbs molded with caresses, graceful and well-educated moves, draperies and, regarding chiaroscuro, repudiated among youth fouls, just enough not to give to the nerves of the placid parishioners, all clean-cut people, accustomed to rose honey of Guido Reni." Although well dramatically represented pictorially and superior to any other figure, the same saint "has draperies heard without rhythm or style, and what is worse, his figure does not harmonize either binds with the other parts of the framework. We already have here the fact that we will see gradually get worse, two separate panels one above the other, forcibly united by the subject but pictorially being ignored and harm each other."
In 1649 his brother Paolo Antonio died: the Duke of Modena Francesco I d’Este invited Guercino in his Palace of Sassuolo for a short period of rest and recreation that was intended to overcome depression. His sister Lucia and the painter brother Ercole Gennari went to live in the Bologna home-studio. The brother took over in all aspects to Paul Antonio, working with the Guercino and taking care of his business. Our painter, on the other hand, while continuing to meet the many demands of work, school also kept in his studio and was also one of four directors, along with Francesco Albani, Alessandro Tiarini and Michele Desubleo, the nude school founded in his palace by Count Ettore Ghisiglieri.
In November 1661 he recovered from a heart attack: his activities, as we can see from the book of accounts, had a notable slowdown. “On December 11, 1666 he was surprised by a new and serious illness without remedy, and on 22 of the same month he succumbed to his destiny, with resigned amusement and everything turned to God. " The death certificate was drawn up in the Bolognese church of San Salvatore: "On 24 December 1666. Mr. Gio. Francesco Barbieri famous painter, very religious man, 74 years old, after receiving the holy sacraments, gave his soul to Creator. He was buried in our church in the middle of the burial, having been celebrated most solemn funeral."