A New Exhibit at The Ringling Will Explore a Rare Italian Portrait

Mark your calendars for October.

By Staff July 19, 2023

Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), Italian, 1591-1666. Portrait of Fra Bonaventura Bisi, ca. 1658-1659. Oil on canvas, museum purchase, 2015. Collection of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art

A new exhibit is coming to The Ringling this October: Guercino’s Friar with a Gold Earring: Fra Bonaventura Bisi, Painter and Art Dealer, an international loan exhibition exploring a rare portrait of Fra Bonaventura Bisi by the Italian Baroque painter Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, also known as Guercino. The Ringling acquired the portrait in 2015.

Through 35 works from institutions in Italy and the United States—including oil paintings, miniatures in tempera on parchment, drawings, prints, and published writings of the period—the exhibition explores the portrait by revealing the fascinating life of Bisi, who was also known as Il Pittorino. A Franciscan friar from Bologna whom Guercino depicted wearing his religious habit and a gold hoop earring, Bisi was also an artist, art dealer and connoisseur-adviser to important collectors, including Prince Leopoldo de Medici.

Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), Italian, 1591–1666. Self-Portrait before a Painting of "Amor Fedele," 1655. Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons' Permanent Fund

The exhibition also examines Bisi’s artistic training, his painted miniatures, his relationships with Guercino and other Bolognese artists and intellectuals, his tenacious pursuit of artwork for his patrons, and his efforts to promote the appreciation and collecting of drawings as an art form. 

The Ringling’s portrait of Fra Bisi by Guercino will be joined by other paintings, drawings and prints from the museum’s Italian Baroque collection. A related exhibition, 500 Years of Italian Drawings from the Princeton University Art Museum, will also be on view in adjacent galleries of the Searing Wing.

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