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Guercino a Roma (1621-1623)

Called by his great admirer Alessandro Ludovisi, who just became Pope with the name of Gregory XV, who wanted to give him prestigious commissions, such as the decoration of the Lodge of the Blessings in St. Peter’s, never realized for the Pope’s death, Guercino left for Rome on May 12, 1621.

The nephew of Pope Gregory, Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi, entrusted him with the decoration of the Casino Del Monte, a house that he just bought from Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte along with the extensive vineyard that stretched around it. The house will thus take the name of Casino Ludovisi.

With the assistance of Agostino Tassi, who painted the architectural squares, the Guercino painted the Aurora on the vault of the central hall on the ground floor of the Casino, represented as a young goddess in a chariot drawn by two horses, in front of which the Night flees while a flying genius crowns Aurora with flowers and another one, on the cart, scatters flowers around; on one side, on the bed, there is the old husband Titone; on the top, three young women represent as many stars, one of which pours dew from an urn.

"The most admirable and really new thing in this Aurora is the two fiery horses, not so much for the boldness of foreshortening makes them so dynamic, because of the acute sense of the modern black and white and the rightness of tonal values. Happy is the idea of exploiting the pied cloak of beautiful horses playing in bringing daring and confusing the capricious contours of the dark spots of the mantle with those shadows, drawing a result of innovation and evidence: so certain is the sense luministic of our painter."

The iconographic examination of the painting reveals the intention not so much to represent simply the emergence of any new day, but the dawn of a new era of glory for the Ludovisi family. This intent is also reaffirmed in the fresco of Fame, decorating the ceiling of the upstairs room of the Casino.

The work also is a challenge of the Ludovisi against the powerful Borghese family, who a few years earlier had commissioned to Reni the same theme in the fresco of their Casino (Pallavicini-Rospigliosi), but ends up representing, in the artistic field, grounds for comparison between the Bolognese and the Guercino: "Guercino made known his individuality and his wits to avoid the repetition of the composition and the style of Guido. In stark contrast to the sweet classicism of Reni and its delicate colors, Guercino treats the theme in a rural way, full of landscapes and animals painted in rich and shaded tones."

While the Reni moves in the tradition of Roman classicism, with his inspiration controlled and his distrustful of formal innovations, Guercino combines an innate and spontaneous creative freshness - the cherub nestled in the chariot and the other playing on the tops of cypresses - the perspective solutions of Veronese observed in Venice - his highly foreshortened architectural shots will enjoy great success for more than a century - without giving up on poetic outpouring of lyrical meditation on the bezel of the Night.