Il Falsario del Guercino, active mid-18th century

Il Falsario del Guercino, active mid-18th century

Il Falsario del Guercino, active mid-18th century

River Landscape with Fishermen

Pen and brown ink, watermark herm (?) over a letter ‘M’, 280 x 421 mm (11 x 16.6 inch)

- Possibly Sotheby's, London, 30 June 1986, lot 151, as 'Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called il Guercino'
- Private collection, United Kingdom


The present sheet belongs to a group of spirited landscapes in pen and ink, intended as finished works of art for sale, that are clearly inspired by the draftsmanship of Guercino (1591-1666), and testify to the popularity of Guercino’s drawings in the late 17th and 18th centuries. They are generically attributed to ‘il Falsario di Guercino’ (the forger of Guercino), but in fact it appears that they were made by several artists. Groups of similar sheets are preserved in the print rooms of the Picacoteca di Cento, the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin, the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, the University Art Museum, Princeton, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.1

Some of the ‘Falsario’ drawings are based on two sets of prints after Guercino drawings, one issued by Jean Pesne around 1678, and another by Lodovico Mattioli before 1747, based in turn on Pesne’s prints. Until the relationship of some of the ‘Falsario’ drawings to the prints was noticed, they were generally considered to be by Guercino’s own hand. 

We known from contemporary accounts and biographies that several artists were engaged in producing landscape drawings in the manner of Guercino: Carlo Maria Gennari (1712–1790), Paolo Antoni Paderna (1649–1708) and Giuseppe Maria Figatelli (1639–1703) are among them. A further Guercinesque landscape draftsman is Pietro Giacomo Palmieri (1737–1804), a pupil of Ercole Graziani at the Accademia Clementina in Bologna. His earliest known works are a series of landscape prints published in 1760. Palmieri soon established a reputation as an engraver, working in a manner that reflected the influence and inspiration, in terms of both style and composition, of such 17th-century masters as Jacques Callot, Stefano Della Bella, Salvator Rosa and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione. Similar stylistic tendencies can be found in his drawings.

Palmieri was exceptional among these imitators in that the sometimes credited his Guercinesque landscapes with his own signature, for instance the Landscape with Figures in a Storm, formerly with Stephen Ongpin (see last fig.).2 The execution of this drawing is not dissimilar to our sheet, especially the handling of the branches and foliage of the prominent central tree, and the comparable diagonal hatching of the mountains in the background. An attribution of the present drawing to Palmieri should therefore be considered. Other Guercinesque landscapes by Palmieri are in the Louvre, the Uffizi and the National Gallery of Scotland.3

That such drawings were greatly admired by contemporaries in France is seen in the words of the draftsman and engraver Jean-Georges Wille, who noted in his journal of January 1775 that ‘M. Palmieri, Italien, m’a fait deux dessins, un peu dans le goût du Guerchin. Je les lui ay payés un louis pièce’.


1. A good discussion is provided by A. Czére, Seventeenth century Italian drawings in the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest 2004; the Budapest Museum owns 24 drawings from the group, cat. nos. 192-215, pp. 198-206.

2. Signed ‘Palmerius. in et fecit’; the sheet was previously at Christie’s, Paris, 21 October 2009, lot 91, repr.

3. For the Louvre and Uffizi sheets, see Giuseppe Delogu, ‘Pietro Giacomo Palmieri’, Pantheon, December 1935, p. 391 and 389, and for the National Gallery of Scotland sheet, see Keith Andrews, National Gallery of Scotland: Catalogue of Italian Drawings, Cambridge 1968, I, p. 86, II, p. 106, fig. 606.

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Il Falsario del Guercino, active mid-18th century
Il Falsario del Guercino, active mid-18th century
Il Falsario del Guercino, active mid-18th century
Il Falsario del Guercino, active mid-18th century
Il Falsario del Guercino, active mid-18th century
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