I dropped into the Gesù yesterday due to the fact that I’m going to start a couple of days v a group of sixth-formers through visiting the church next week. They’re examining the Reformation and also the Counter-Reformation, and also the Gesù is a bombastic place to start. Plus that close to your hotel and hopefully will provide an atmospheric Baroque picture without being as well overwhelming after ~ a job travelling. So right here are a couple of thoughts around Il Baciccia, that deserves to be more celebrated, and also whose good triumph is the painting of the vault of the Gesù.

The image of the ceiling are mine (taken yesterday) and also seem come work relatively well if you’d favor to click on them and also zoom in to look closer at details.

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The original 16th century interior of the mom church of the Jesuit order, the Gesù, had been a clean manifestation the the themes of the council of Trent; vast, open, and austere in plan, the sought to get rid of dark corners and also focus all fist on the altar and its liturgical function. But the church was to undergo a major alteration nearly a century after it was very first built. This redecoration was a splendid depiction of the change in the atmosphere which had taken location in Rome transparent the ten century. Once the basic of the Jesuit Order, Gian Paolo Oliva, opened the competition for the brand-new decorations in ~ the Gesù in 1671, that turned come his girlfriend Gianlorenzo Bernini, grasp of the roman Baroque, because that advice. The artist, currently in his seventies, wasted no time in wholeheartedly recommending his an excellent protégé, Giovanni Battista Gaulli, far better known together Il Baciccia, a Genoan abbreviation the his very first names.

Il Baciccia (1639-1709) had actually arrived in Rome aged eighteen after the rest of his household had been killed by the torment which had hit Genoa in 1657. Much of what us know around his arrival in Rome comes from The resides of modern painters, sculptors and also architects. Written in the 1730s by Lione Pascoli the sought – with limited success – come readjust the Tuscan prejudice of art history dictated by Vasari’s Lives that the Artists. Whilst, similar to Vasari, the is unwise to take every little thing he writes as absolute fact, Pascoli’s account is nevertheless a very useful one. The tells united state that after ~ the young Gaulli arrived in Rome he shortly came into call with Bernini who, “while he lived, verily gave him great illumination, and instructed him, and acted together his master”. Indeed such was the relationship in between the two men that Bernini would be named as godfather ~ above the birth of Gaulli’s first-born son.

Taken under Bernini’s well-connected wing, Gaulli was introduced to the good patrons the seventeeth century Rome, and also was taught to capture the spontaneity the expression therefore beloved by roman patrons that the Baroque. His increase to popularity as a society portrait artist was swift, and also Pascoli tells united state that his talents together an artist were augmented by his personability, “good manners, and also prudence”.


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Portrait of Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici, Il Baciccia c. 1667. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence


However, that is claimed that when presented with more complex quadri storiati (literally paints which call a story) requiring multiple figures, that ran right into difficulty. Composing his Lives the Genoese painters, sculptors, and architects the following century, Carlo Giuseppe Ratti claims that “whenever referred to as upon to paint quadri storiati, it to be Bernini self who attracted up the plans. For this reason his pack was lightened, and with his instances he teach him …”. This, whilst reliant top top accounts offered by Gaulli’s son and also written part sixty year after the artist’s death, reveals a nervousness an extremely much in ~ odds v the especially and complex bravura the composition discovered at the ceiling the the nave that the Gesù. The opportunity that Bernini – by now in his seventies – may have actually personally intervened in the to plan of the project has actually been considered, and undoubtedly the commission in ~ the Gesù to be unlike anything Gaulli had previously undertaken. Without doubt a direct attach can be seen between the paintings at the Gesù and also the functions executed through Guido Ubaldo Abbatini native Bernini’s design in the vault that the Cornaro Chapel in ~ Santa Maria della Vittoria.


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Vault the the Gesù, 1679, Il Baciccia


The vault the the nave at the Gesù was finally unveiled on Christmas eve of 1679. A multi-media extravaganza the fresco painting, stucco, and architecture, it mirrors the Triumph of the Most divine Name the Jesus. The painting is a masterpiece that illusionism. The is as if the gilded stucco decoration of the ceiling, supported by white stucco angels, has opened up providing a vision the the heavens. The angels are the work-related of Ercole Antonio Raggi, right-hand male to Bernini, another reminder that the nearby link between Baciccia and his mentor. At the centre the monogram of the Jesuits, IHS – one abbreviation of Christ’s name – radiates blinding light and cherubim. Come the left, projecting the end from the field of the painting, the Magi proffer their presents to the surname of Christ. The figures kneeling in prayer in the central band are drawn up into Heaven through this light. Sustained by angels, the clouds ~ above which they kneel darken underneath, as all at once the name of God banishes sinners down into Hell. In the darkness beneath and also to the right, a writhing mass of the heretical and also the damned hurtle towards the viewer in the nave.


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ceiling detail, Il Gesù


At the top right the this group the figure of Vanity is i can identify by she peacock, and by she side Heresy is presented with a head the snakes. These numbers are actors over and beyond the gilded ‘frame’ in a mass of painted stucco, interacting with the gilded stucco that the ‘earthly’ realm. They even actors their (illusionistic) shadows over the church ceiling, emphasize the impede of the magnificent light. The project, because that it can not be simply defined as a painting, is realized using the sotto in su (literally an interpretation “below upwards”) view so beloved of artists of the Baroque. Right here this sotto in su serves to emphasize the upward activity of the just towards the brilliant light. This vortex has actually as that is apex the monogram the the Jesuits, in the direction of which the simply are drawn, and away from which the damned are repelled.

The drama the the event is such the the ordered and logical classic architectural forms, collection out in the dad of every painted ceilings – Michaelangelo’s occupational at the Sistine Chapel – which had actually so defined the heart of the Renaissance, space unable to contain it. The an extremely language the Renaissance order, once supplied to express the union between the earthly and also the heavenly, of man’s expertise of the unknowable, is right here used because that the opposite purpose. The earthly carefulness the the arches and also rosettes of the stucco ceiling space engulfed by the drama that the power of the surname of Jesus.

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Upon completion the Jesuits were delighted with the project, and such to be the envy that the work-related that the Theatine monks at the adjacent church the Sant’Andrea della Valle urged Il Baciccia to work for them too, repainting the nave and the dome. But Pascoli tells us that Gaulli’s respect for the existing functions of Domenichino and also Lanfranco led him come “make his excuses”, perhaps also mindful the the important duty Bernini had played in the great triumph the his career.