Guercino’s Friar with a Gold Earring: Fra Bonaventura Bisi, Painter and Art Dealer

Exhibition Website

Oct 14 2023 - Jan 7 2024

Who is the intriguing man wearing a religious habit and a gold hoop earring in The Ringling’s portrait by Italian Baroque master Il Guercino? And why does he point to a stack of drawings? This fascinating exhibition investigates the sitter, Fra Bonaventura Bisi (1601-1659), a Franciscan Minor Conventual friar whose work as an art dealer, printmaker, and celebrated painter of miniatures made him a major figure in the artistic culture of seventeenth-century Bologna. 

Offering a captivating glimpse into the worlds of art making and art collecting in Baroque Italy, the exhibition explores Fra Bisi’s artistic training, his close relationships with Guercino and other Bolognese artists and intellectuals, his extraordinary painted miniatures, his dogged pursuit of artworks for collectors such as Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici of Florence and the Este rulers of Modena, and his passionate efforts to promote the appreciation and collecting of drawings as an art form. The breadth of Bisi’s artistic activity is illustrated through the wide range of media chosen for the exhibition, including oil paintings, miniatures in tempera on parchment, drawings, prints, metalwork, and published writings of the period. Loans from important museums and private collections in both Italy and the United States join selections from The Ringling’s own exceptional collection of Italian Baroque art.

This exhibition has been organized by David M. Stone, Guest Curator, and Sarah Cartwright, Ulla R. Searing Curator of Collections, The Ringling. Its accompanying publication, produced by Scala Arts Publishers, contains extensive new scholarship examining Guercino’s portrait at The Ringling, Fra Bisi’s career as an artist, art adviser and dealer, miniature painting in seventeenth-century Italy, and men wearing earrings in the Baroque period.

Credit: Overview from museum website

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