Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591ó1666), Italian historical painter, was born at Cento, a village not far from Bologna. His artistic prowess developed very rapidly, and at the age of seventeen he was associated with Benedetto Gennari, a well-known painter of the Bolognese school. The fame of the young painter spread beyond his native village, and in 1615 he moved to Bologna, where his paintings were much admired.
His first style was formed after that of the Caracci; but the strong colouring and shadows employed by Caravaggio made a deep impression on his mind, and for a considerable period his productions showed evident traces of that painterís influence. Some of his later pieces approach rather to the manner of his great contemporary Guido, and are painted with more lightness and clearness. Guercino was esteemed very highly in his lifetime, not only by the nobles and princes of Italy, but by his brother artists, who placed him in the first rank of painters.
He was remarkable for the extreme rapidity of his execution; he completed no fewer than 106 large altar-pieces for churches, and his other paintings amount to about 144. His most famous piece is thought to be the St. Petronilla, which was painted at Rome for Gregory XV. In 1626 he began his frescoes in the Duomo at Piacenza. Guercino continued to paint and teach up to the time of his death in 1666. He had amassed a handsome fortune by his labours.