Baciccio (1639–1709) – the creator of heaven and hell on Earth

Baciccio, decoration of the vault of the Church of Il Gesù – the Triumph of the Name of Jesus, fragment

Baciccio, decoration of the vault of the Church of Il Gesù – the Triumph of the Name of Jesus, fragment

This painter’s name is known by but a few, yet he was one of the most important artists of Roman Baroque. His almost ideal work can be seen by anyone who passes through the door of the Jesuit Church of Il Gesù. Looking upwards, he will be amazed by an exceptional vault filled with paintings, like no other.  It seems as if the artist pierced the roof of the temple for us, showing whirling, weaving figures – the distant ones, barely visible, concentrated around the light, and the nearer ones – disgraced, falling to the depths of hell straight at us.

Baciccio, decoration of the vault of the Church of Il Gesù – the Triumph of the Name of Jesus, fragment
Baciccio’s portrait, Accademia Nazionale di San Luca
Baciccio, portrait of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica – Palazzo Barberini (approx. 1665)
paintings in the pendentives – Wisdom and Providence, Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone
Baciccio, painting in the pendentives Justice and Peace, Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone
Baciccio, painting of allegories (Fortitude and Charity) in one of the pendentives in the Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone
Baciccio, the evangelists in the pendentives of the dome of the Church of Il Gesù
Baciccio, paintings in the pendentives – Chastity and Temperance (on the left) Prudence and Providence (on the right), Church  of Sant’Agnese in Agone
Baciccio, decoration of the vault of the Church of Il Gesù
Baciccio, decoration of the vault of the Church of Il Gesù – the Triumph of the Name of Jesus, fragment
Baciccio,  decorations of the dome of the Church of Il Gesù
Baciccio, painting  on the ceiling of the Basilica of Santi Apostoli
Baciccio, The Holy Family, painting in the side altar of the Church of San Francesco a Ripa
Baccicio, Pietà, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini
Baccicio, portrait of Pope Clement IX, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini
Baciccio, St. Louis Bertrand, Caffarelli Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Wikipedia, autor Sailko
Baccicio, The Rest on the Flight to Egypt, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini
Baciccio, Baptism of a Pagan Queen, painting in the side chapel of the Church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
Baciccio, The Death of Francis Xavier, painting in the side chapel of the Church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
Baciccio, The Death of Francis Xavier, painting in the side chapel of the Church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
Baciccio, Madonna with Child, St. Rocco and St. Anthony, sacristy of the Church of San Rocco

This painter’s name is known by but a few, yet he was one of the most important artists of Roman Baroque. His almost ideal work can be seen by anyone who passes through the door of the Jesuit Church of Il Gesù. Looking upwards, he will be amazed by an exceptional vault filled with paintings, like no other.  It seems as if the artist pierced the roof of the temple for us, showing whirling, weaving figures – the distant ones, barely visible, concentrated around the light, and the nearer ones – disgraced, falling to the depths of hell straight at us.

     


This painting, depicting The Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus, which until this very day is considered one of the greatest examples of late-Baroque illusionism, brought the artist fame and recognition in Rome. It was also his best work. However, before Giovanni Battista Gaulli became famous, as an eighteen-year old he came to the city on the Tiber, escaping the plague which was ravaging his home city – Genoa. Unfortunately his parents fell victims to it. Perhaps, that is why one of the first paintings, which the artist painted in his new homeland, was the Madonna – intercessor of plague victims, a work which until today is found in the Roman Church of St. Rocco – patron of the ill and dying.

In the Eternal City, the paiting and drawing abilities of Baciccio, as he was known there, were quickly discovered.  In time he also became a valued portrait painter and after the death of the great master of illusionist painting Pietro da Catona, the most popular Roman painter.

Thanks to the friendship of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, whose portrait he painted, the doors to the salons of Roman aristocracy opened in front of Baciccio; he was able to portray as many as seven consecutive popes (Alexander VII, Clement IX, Clement X, Innocent XI, Alexander VIII, Innocent XII, Clement XI). They are the greatest images of the type – combining delicateness with force of expression, while expressing a personal style, full of grace and realism, which the painter developed.

 

The most important works in Rome:

  • Church of San Rocco (sacristy), painting Madonna with Child, Rocco and St. Anthony Abbot (1665)
  • Church of Sant'Agnese in Agone, wall paintings, representation of the four cardinal virtues (1672)
  • Church of Il Gesù, frescos on the vault and in the dome – Triumph of the Holy Name Jesus (1685)
  • Church of Santi Apostoli, frescos on the vault Triumph of the Franciscan Order (1707)
  • Church of San Francesco a Ripa ( chapel of the blessed Ludovica Albertoni,) painting Madonna with Child and St. Anne (1675)
  • Church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, paintings: The Death of St. Francis Xavier, Francis Xavier baptizing a pagan queen, The Sermon of Francis Xavier
  • Church of Santa maria sopra Minerva  –  The Altieri Chapel (painting the Trinity in Glory), The Caffarelli chapel – painting depicting St. Louis Bertrand
  • Church of Santa Margherita, painting: The Immaculate Conception with St. Francis and St. Clare (1680)
  • Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, painting Christ, Virgin and St. Nicholas (1698)
  • Church of San Nicolo da Tolentino, painting John the Baptist on the desert
  • Palazzo Chigi (Salon d’Oro), fresco Diana and Endymion
     

Accademia di San Luca

  • Portrait of Clement XI 
  • Madonna with Child
  • The Birth of John the Baptist

Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica – Palazzo Barberini 

  • Pietà (1667)
  • The Rest on the Flight to Egypt
  • Portrait of Pope Clement IX (approx. 1669)
  • Apotheosis of St. Ignatius Loyola
  • Portrait of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1670)

Galleria Spada

  • Christ and the Samaritan Woman
  • Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus

Musei Vaticani (Pinacoteca Vaticana)

  • Musical Angels  (1673)
  • The Vision of St. Francis Xavier  (approx. 1675)