Skip to content

Week 9: Domenichino (1581-1641)

March 24, 2011



Alms of St. Cecilia

Domenichino 1613-1614.


Polet Chapel, S. Luigi dei Francesi, Rome.

Compared to the Caravaggio St. Matthew pieces in the same church, Domenichino’s St. Cecilia fresco is radically different.  Executed only over 10 years after Caravaggio’s dark, tenenbristic laterals and altarpiece in the Contarelli Chapel, Domenichino’s composition of alms giving has a much lighter palette.  This is due to its medium, fresco.  Many other aspects of this piece make it much different from Caravaggio’s Baroque style.

Domenichino appears to be reviving Bolognese Classicism with his St. Cecilia fresco.  The composition of figures as a whole creates a triangle that is very much in the foreground.  This establishes stability.  Within the triangle, however, there is still much movement and strong diagonals.  The two figures at the bottom corners of the composition mirror each other, creating a continuity of movement within the scene.

Indirect quotes from Raphael can be seen in this piece as well as others of the time period and style.  Instead of directly quoting figures used in earlier pieces, as done in the Late Renaissance and Maniera, Baroque artists captured the essence of a figure’s pose, then had a live model reenact the pose, and fianlly drew the model from different angles.  Thus, they made their own adaptation of recognizable figures from the past masters while making them their own.

This scene of alms giving was important during the Counter-Reformation because it emphasizes the importance of a saint and her good works.



Last Communion of St. Jerome

Domenichino 1614.

Oil on canvas.

For Congregation of St. Jerome of Charity, now in Pinoteca Vaticana, Rome.

Domenichino’s St. Jerome shows his familiarity with the Carracci version, but also created controversy in that it looked too similar.

In Domenichino’s piece, the composition is flipped from Agostino Carracci’s original.  Jerome is now on the left side, looking right to the priest handing him the Eucharist.  Everyone in the composition is focused on the main event – Jerome in penitence receiving his last Communion (Cropper).  These are two sacraments that the Protestants would not accept.  This painting is a stronger defense of those sacraments during the Counter-Reformation than Carracci’s.  Domenichino even features items that would be found at the altar during such a ceremony such as candles and a chalice.

Domenichino’s St. Jerome is arguably more Baroque than Carracci’s in that it encompasses far distant space.  Both compositions feature a piece of architecture in the background that is open to reveal a landscape beyond.  Carracci’s scene seems to eliminate most planes of the middle ground and jumps straight to the distant background.  Domenichino, on the other hand, takes the time to show a receding background with many planes in between.

Elizabeth Cropper. “Domenichino.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 22 Mar. 2011 <;.



Vocation of Ss. Peter & Andrew

Domenichino 1625-1628.


S. Andrea della Valle, Rome.

The center-piece of the dome-like apse spandrel frescoes at S. Andrea della Valle is a Vocation by Domenichino.  It shows Christ, fishermen, and Saints Andrew and Peter.

Domenichino faced a technical problem with the shape of the surface for the fresco.  It is rounded, concave.  He devised a way to make each painting appear quadro riportati, yet also appear to only be a window into the world of the apostles.  This scene, like the others in this apse, gives the illusion that it extends beyond the picture frame.  There are hints of a background landscape in this boat scene, as well.

The action of this vocational scene is happening in the foreground.  The figures form diagonals in their interactions with one another.  The most prominent can be seen in the long stick one of the men on the boat has.  It even seems to mimic the ribbing of the dome.

Christ’s gesture recalls that of Caravaggio’s Calling of St. Matthew Christ.  He stands off to the side, seemingly not quite fitting in with the rest of the characters in the scene.  His arm is extended and he points to the chosen ones with a languid finger.  Caravaggio derived this from Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508-1512).

Elizabeth Cropper. “Domenichino.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 22 Mar. 2011 <;.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: