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The Woman taken in Adultery

In the Gospel of John – in the New Testament of the Bible, according to the Christian tradition – the story of the adulteress describes how a woman was saved from being stoned to death by Christ's words: ‘Whichever of you is free from sin shall cast the first stone at her.’ The artist as a master storyteller captures the pivotal moment just as Christ is about to speak. Drama is created, not through overt or emphatic expression, but through the subtle interchange of glances and hand gestures.  

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666) was known from an early age by the ableist nickname Guercino, meaning 'squint-eyed', after he developed strabismus as a result of a childhood accident. He was largely self-taught and became the leading painter in Bologna from the 1640s. The Woman taken in Adultery with its bold, fluid, brushwork, powerful contrast of light and dark and inventive composition, is characteristic of the artist’s early work before he travelled to Rome in 1621 and came under the more classicising influence of the painter Guido Reni (1575-1642). 

Currently on display

Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)
c. 1621
Gallery 2
98.2 x 122.7 cm
Oil on canvas
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number