Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Il Guercino
(Cento 1591 – Bologna 1666)


Oil on canvas, 56 x 51 cm (22 x 20 inches)

The tale of Lucretia is an ancient fable, told by Tito Livio (Livio, T., Ab Urbe condita, edition by L. Mabil, Venice, 1841. I, p. 137). A city is laid to waste and the one to lose out is the heroine – an outstanding example of virtue representing a sacrificial lamb with whose blood the birth of the Roman republic is bathed. Violated at night by Sesto Tarquinius, son of the last King of Rome Tarquin the Proud (and the father’s name already says a lot about the family’s character), Collatinus’s beautiful wife cannot bear the disgrace and commits suicide by stabbing herself in the chest with a dagger. Father, husband and a handful of courageous friends revenge her and, leading the revolt that pushes the Tarquinius back to Etruria, seize power in Rome. Is that glance up to the sky looking for comfort from the Gods (or is it wondering, perhaps, where the lethal weapon, absent from the canvas, has gone)?