Bought by the vendor’s forebear in Rome in 1850, the work depicts a Cane Corso and has remained with the East Anglia-based family ever since. It was previously unknown to art historians.

Sarah Flynn, Head of Paintings Department, Cheffins, comments: “This wonderful work by the great Bolognese painter Guercino has caused a stir in the art market, drawing interest from across the Globe. Having first been recognised as Guercino by Cheffins Old Master Paintings Consultant, John Somerville from Suffolk, this important painting saw bidding from collectors, dealers and institutions and eventually sold for £570,000.” 

Guercino was one of Italy’s most important artists of the 17th Century, born at Cento, near Ferrara in 1591. Largely self-taught, he was summoned to Rome by Pope Gregory XV from 1621 to paint altarpieces and frescoes. He then moved to Bologna by 1625, where he soon became the city’s leading painter before dying in 1666.  

The physical characteristics and head of the dog indicated to both the Kennel Club of Great Britain and its Italian counterpart, the Ente Nazionale della Cinofilia Italiana, that this is the dog known in the 17th century as a Cane Corso, the progenitor of today’s Italian Mastiff. As an ancient breed these dogs were praised by the Romans for their courage, nobility and strength and are still used for hunting or as guard dogs today.

John Somerville, Old Master Paintings Specialist and Consultant at Cheffins comments: “Seldom in paintings of dogs does one see such individuality and personality so wonderfully portrayed and this told me at once this was not by any ‘dog painter’ but by a great artist. The price it achieved confirms its enormous rarity and appeal.”

The painting was sold at Cheffins' Fine Art Sale on Thursday 8th March.

For more information, contact the Fine Art team or telephone 01223 213343