The Return of the Prodigal Son
attributed to Ercole Graziani il giovane (1688-1765)
18th century, Oil on canvas
With its emphasis on gestures and expressions, this is a particularly tragic and moving version of one of the most frequently depicted Gospel parables, The Return of the Prodigal Son. The artist’s clear aim is to lead the faithful to meditate on the power of forgiveness and the value of repentance. It is the work of Bolognese painter Ercole Graziani, who was highly regarded in his place of birth and in Rome from the 1730s onwards, due to the accuracy of his pictorial language and his use of elegant classical forms. Graziani had been a student of Donato Creti, whose manner he initially imitated, assimilating the subtle and rarefied elegance of his teacher’s painting, but as his research and the century progressed, he opted for the stylistic features of classicism. This is the case in this beautiful painting, in which the penitent state of the son is emphasised as he turns pleadingly, desperately, dressed in rags, towards his elderly father, who generously welcomes him into his arms.