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Martyrdom of Saints John and Paul (recto)
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Martyrdom of Saints John and Paul (recto)


Guercino (1591 - 1666)

Pen and ink on paper

Height: 23.9 cm; Width: 31 cm;

Numbered in graphite, lower left corner & recto, 4

Acquisition (source, method, date)
Witt, Robert Clermont (Sir); bequest; 1952

About this work

These two saints were brothers, both Roman officers who were beheaded in A.D.362 for their Christian faith. In one of his most inventive sequences of compositional studies, Guercino describes their execution in gory detail and from varying angles. Here the executioner fiercely grasps a kneeling saint by the hair, ready to strike; on the right, near a decapitated body, a meandering line of ink resembles a trail of blood. The other side of the sheet shows a more resolved composition.


The arrangement of figures in this study is much like those in the final painting (now in the Musée des Augustins, Toulouse). The artist focuses on the back of the executioner, his tense muscles indicating the violence of the act he is about to perform. A severed head is prominently displayed nearby. The other side of the sheet shows an earlier compositional idea. (Permanent collection label)

Copyright: © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

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