oil on canvas, cm 292x178
The painting was commissioned to Guercino by the nobleman Vincenzo Nolfi , whose family was devoted to the Guardian Angel, for his chapel at the church St. Augustine (1), where it remained until 1943, before the church was damaged by the war.
Guercino creates a vibrant atmosphere of lights and deep shadows, that are intense but not dramatic.
The well-tuned colors favor romantic suggestions, while the naturalistic forms are closer to reality and not idealized (5). The angel and child's ecstatic gazes give a spontaneous lyrical sense, mitigating the strong physicality of the angel figure who dominates the scene.
The physical shapes (Fleshes, landscape, dress) and spiritual ones (Angels, heaven, light) are examples of the personal style of Guercino.
The artwork’s subject is the contrast between good and evil (2), light and shadow, spirit and matter.
In the painting there are evident references to the thought of St. Augustine about the conditions that lead to man's deliverance.
The landscape om the right of the painting shows a building that can represent an allusion to the Civitas Dei, the city of God (3) in opposition to the city of men.
The cube (4) on which the child is placed symbolizes solid foundation, on which the life of man must be based.
The English poet Browning came to Fano and, visiting the church of St. Augustine, he was literally struck by Guercino's painting so he decided to write a poem on it. As a conseguence in 1912, the professor of English literature in the University of Yale, Phelps, came to Fano to admire the painting, and he founded the Fano Club in honor of the poet Browning. It is a group in which you are accepted only if you send a postcard or a photo that shows your visit to Fano to admire the work of Guercino. This first club was closed, but later new ones were born.
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Il Guercino, was born in Cento (Fe) in 1591.. After an apprenticeship in his hometown, he moved to Bologna (1617). The works of the early period reveal a substantial adherence to the poetic of the Carracci Academy in Bologna. They are, however, animated by a chromatics and a sensitivity to light problems which make them unique within the school of Bologna. In Rome he worked for Pope Gregory XV. Here he expressed his instinctive artistic abilities. His sense of poetry were spontaneous while detaching from the more academic and meditative style of Carracci in order to develop
a painting style, rich in vibrant colours, varying shades in a subtle atmosphere.