Oil on canvas, 72.5cm by 55.5cm. Inscribed l.r.: ECCE VIRGO CONCIPIET ISAIA C.7.
The records of Brownlow, 9th Earl of Exeter (1725-1793) suggest that the painting came from the Barberini Palace in Rome, from whence he presumably acquired it.
He is known to have purchased several other paintings from the Barberini.
Isaiah, who was born in Jerusalem in the 8th Century BC, prophesied the coming of the Messiah to redeem the people from their sins.
His death was caused by being sawn in half with a wooden saw.
Guercino, who worked extremely quickly and had a prodigious output, was active mainly in Bologna, where his work was praised by Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619) whose own work is said to have been an early influence.
He also spent a short time in Rome, where he painted a number of frescoes and an altarpiece for the new Pope Clement V, as well as a portrait of Clement.
After the pope’s death, he returned to Bologna, where he became the city’s leading artist following the death of his main commercial rival Guido Reni (1575-1642).