(b. 1591, Cento, d. 1666, Bologna)
Virgin and Child with Four Saintsc. 1651
Oil on canvas, 332 x 230 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Guercino was summoned to Rome by a Bolognese patron elected pope in 1621. After a heady start, he was evidently intimidated by the example of High Renaissance painting and by the work of his competitors, the Bolognese Reni and Domenichino among them, and adopted a classicising style which relied less on shadow, bold foreshortenings and study from life. With the death of the pope in 1623 he returned to Cento, where he pursued a successful career providing easel paintings to clients throughout Europe. He resisted offers from the French and English kings to work at their courts. After the death of Reni he moved to Bologna where he became the leading painter. In the best works from this late period of his life, he contrived to emulate Reni's cool elegance without compromising his own gifts as both colourist and draughtsman.
This painting was commissioned in 1649 by Francesco I d'Este to replace Correggio's Madonna with St George in the church San Pietro Martire in Modena. The represented saints are the patron saints of Modena, Sts Geminianus, John the Baptist, George, and Peter the Martyr.