Domenichino Zampieri (1581-1614)
Oil on canvas.
For the Polit Chapel in S. Luigi dei Francesi, Rome; now in Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Domenichino’s St. Cecilia is an example of the artist’s inspiration from Raphael. The latter’s St. Cecilia was completed in 1516-1517 (oil on panel, transferred to canvas; Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna, right), one hundred years before Domenichino. A similar upturned face can be seen in both. However, Domenichino eliminated the crowd of figures around the saint and reduced the composition to just Cecilia and an angel. Even still, Domenichino’s convection of affeti, the emotions or passions of the soul, appears to be happening soley within St. Cecilia, unbeknownst to the angel.
Domenichino did not show the vision of St. Cecilia in his composition as Raphael did. In Raphael’s piece, he reveals Cecilia’s secret only to the viewer, whereas everyone around her is ignorant to the vision. In Domenichino’s, the lack of visual evidence is replaced with his ability to show affeti. The piece is moving enough without proving what Cecilia is seeing or experiencing, visually. It is not a narrative scene.
Although set against a Caravaggesque dark ground and painted with stark chiaroscuro, the scene is brightly and evenly lit from the front. Cecilia is shown with the grazie of Raphaelesuqe figures but emphasizes contemporary interests in the visions and miracles of the saints. It was especially important to emphasize the latter during this time of the Counter-Reformation.
Diana with Nymphs at Play
Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s private collection, now in Galleria Borghese, Rome.
This fresco is also evidence of Domenichino’s reverence for Classical masters such as Raphael and Correggio, and also adaptations from Anibale Carracci. Correggio’s influence can be seen in the Venetian-like painterly style of the brushwork. Like Guido Reni’s Aurora, this scene is composed classically like a frieze or relief. Most figures are in the foreground. There is, however, a Baroque sense of depth and landscape.
There is also a theater-like quality to the landscape and other devices in the composition. The background acts like a back drop, it could be a painted wall, for all we know, because the main action is in front of that screen-like landscape. A tree in the front not only acts as repoussoir, but also like a prop on stage. The bird that has been shot with an arrow hangs in mid air, but is static as the tip of the arrow lines up with the edge of the picture plane.
Domenichino’s figures are Classic and Classically organized in the foreground. There is also a strong dynamism to their interactions. The diagonals they form make this Classical throw-back a truly Baroque piece.
Elizabeth Cropper. “Domenichino.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 17 Mar. 2011 <http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T023167>.