Pope Gregory XV

Object Details


Pope Gregory XV


Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) (Italian (Bolognese), 1591 - 1666)




about 1622 - 1623


Oil on canvas


133.7 x 98.4 cm (52 5/8 x 38 3/4 in.)

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Slanting light falls across the upper section of the painting, placing the left side of the sitter's face in shadow. He looks out of the picture, his eyes expressing weary concern. Shown in the act of reading a book at a small table, he seems more scholarly and retiring than powerfully vigorous.

In 1621 Guercino was called to Rome from Bologna to paint this portrait of Pope Gregory XV. Although Guercino rarely painted portraits, he used a composition that had become a standard for papal portraiture since the Renaissance. But Guercino placed less emphasis on the trappings of power than earlier papal portraits and more on his subject's character. This portrait shows a keen psychological understanding of his patron's state of mind, capturing the pope at the end of his life, worn out by the cares of office and failing health.

about 1622/1623 - 1623

Pope Gregory XV, Italian, 1554 - 1623 (Rome, Italy), possibly commissioned from the artist, about 1622/1623; by inheritance within the Ludovisi family, 1623.

1623 - possibly still in 1633

Ludovisi Family (Rome, Italy)

by 1854 - 1885

William Ward, first earl of Dudley, 1817 - 1885 (Witley Court, Hereford and Worcester, England), by inheritance to William Humble, 1885.

1885 - 1900

William Humble Ward, second earl of Dudley, 1867 - 1932 (Witley Court, Hereford and Worcester, England) [sold, Dudley sale, Christie's, London, June 16, 1900, lot 30, to S.T. Smith.]


S.T. Smith

1900 -

Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. (London, England)

by 1908 - 1919

Ralph Cross Johnson, 1843 - 1923 (Washington, DC), donated to the the National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution (renamed the National Collection of Fine Arts, and in 1980, the National Museum of American Art), 1919.

1919 - 1987

National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1987.

Exhibition of Art Treasures (1857) (363; in definitive ed. of catalouge; lent by Lord Ward)
Works of the Old Masters (1871) (374; Lent by Earl of Dudley)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), 1871
Baroque Portraiture in Italy: Works from North American Collections (March 10 to May 19, 1985) (26; catalogue by John T. Spike)
  • Wadsworth Atheneum, (Hartford), March 20 to May 20, 1985
The Age of Correggio and the Carracci: Emilian Painting of the 16th and 17th Centuries (September 10, 1986 to May 24, 1987) (Cat. 165; catalogue entry by Denis Mahon)
  • Pinacoteca Nazionale (Bologna), September 10 to November 10, 1986
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), December 19, 1986 to February 16, 1987
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), March 26 to May 24, 1987
Giovanni Francesco Barbieri: Il Guercino, 1591 - 1666 (September 6, 1991 to May 17, 1992) (56; catalogue entry by Denis Mahon)
  • Museo Civico (Bologna), September 6 to November 10, 1991
  • Schirn Kunsthalle (Frankfurt), December 2, 1991 to February 9, 1992
The Genius of Rome 1592 - 1623 (January 20 to July 31, 2001) (9)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), January 20 to April 16, 2001
Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture (August 5, 2008 to March 8, 2009) (1.5)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), August 5 to October 26, 2008
Captured Emotions: Baroque Painting in Bologna 1575-1725 (December 16, 2008 to May 3, 2009) (pl. 14)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 16, 2008 to May 3, 2009

Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britian: Being an Account of the Chief Collections of Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, Illuminated Mss., &c., &c. 3 vols. (London: John Murray, 1854), vol. 2, p. 236.

"Acquisitions/1987." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 16 (1988), p. 161, no. 30.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 58, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 6th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), p. 105, ill.

Education Resources

Education Resource




The Ultimate Desk

Lesson in which students learn about the Baroque period, work in groups to create a Baroque desk, and reflection on the process in journals

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts; Music


Long-Term Unit