Carracci and Reni influenced Baglione. A strongly structured work with realistic attention to the disturbing details of the crucifixion: a leather strap, rope, pincers and hammer. Near the cross is an idealised figure of Christ, leaning on a sarcophagus and holding the cane with which he was mocked, in contrast to the figure in the background. Joseph of Arimathea was given Jesus’ body, which he wrapped in a new linen sheet and placed in his own rock tomb. At the resurrection ‘His appearance was like lightning and his clothes were white as snow’ (Matthew 28/3).
Matyrdom of St Lawrence
St Lawrence was roasted alive for offering the poor and the sick to a Roman soldier who had demanded the treasures of the Church. Significant action is conveyed by gesture or a glance. The left of the painting was probably commenced ten years prior to the completion of the right hand side of the painting.
Arcadia also exists in the afterlife
Guercino began his academic training in the Carracci academy and became a master Baroque painter. Shepherds contemplate the after-life expressed in the motto on the stone monument. The mouse and the fly with the skull reinforce the earthly realism of the scene and the dialogue between man and nature.
Madonna and child with St Simon and St Jude
The artist has used the movement of drapery and intense facial expressions to express the private intangible nature of mystical experience. Barocci, born and trained in Urbino, studied the works of Michelangelo and Raphael during a short stay in Rome and in turn influenced Annibale Carracci. His preparation involved many drawings, from life and wax models from which he studied drapery. St Simon leans on the saw with which he was martyred, St Jude holds a lance while the artist’s patrons appear in the lower right. The portrait of the woman is on paper glued to the canvas.
Still life with musical instruments
Evaristo Bachenis lived his life in Bergamo. He was famous for his still life paintings with musical instruments such as this one. The extreme foreshortening and interacting volumes of the instruments create an almost abstract effect. The bright light and dark shadows are a precise reference to the work of Caravaggio.
Bust of Pope Clement X
Bernini was the greatest Baroque sculptor of the 17th century. He admired the carving of Michelangelo, the classicism of Annibale Carracci and the emotionalism of Guido Reni. He strived to express both earthly character and spiritual state of mind and claimed ‘I have overcome the difficulty of making marble like wax’. Clement Altieri, Pope Clement X, died before this portrait could be completed. Struts of marble remain at the right hand, which is raised in blessing while the left hand holds a Papal ‘bull’ or letter. Bernini carved the head and hands and the rest of the sculpture is attributed to his assistants.
Borgianni was a Roman painter who studied in Spain, returning in time to quarrel with Caravaggio before the latter fled in 1606. This dramatically foreshortened image of Christ’s body laid out on an altar-like block of stone is one of few surviving works by Borgianni. Dramatic lighting with strong shadows enhances the cold realism of the corpse against the warm tones of the living worshippers. St John gently caresses Christ’s limp hand.
Allegory of human life
A pupil of Reni in Bologna in the mid 1630s Cagnacci also visited Venice and was in Rome at the height of Caravaggio’s influence there. An allegory is a symbolic story. The snake devouring itself is an ancient Egyptian symbol interpreted as the eternal cycle of creation while the skull is a reminder of the transience of life on earth. Other symbols include the dandelion, a bitter herb and common Christian symbols of grief: candles, an hourglass and ruined buildings.
Venus and Adonis
This is one of Caracciolo’s very few paintings of a profane subject. Venus, goddess of love, was hopelessly in love with the beautiful Adonis. One day while hunting he was slain by a wild boar but Venus was too late to save him. Anenomes sprouted where his blood spilled. In this dramatic work Caracciolo pays close attention to the elements of the myth such as their son Cupid carrying a ring to signify the union, the dove which signifies Venus and Adonis’ hunting dogs.
St Francis meditating
Carravaggio generally lit his subjects from a single source high above and intensified realism by implying touch in the textures he depicted. St Francis of Assissi is shown in a torn robe to indicate his vow of poverty, alone in the darkness of a cave. He contemplates death in the form of a skull. The single figure and use of only a few colours intensifies the feeling of profound meditation.
St John the Bapist
St John was a prophet and messenger of Christ who chose penance in the desert. Carravaggio used dramatic lighting from above, a closely-cropped image, dramatic colour and deep shadow to depict the saint as a rough Roman street boy. As his reddened hand grasps the reed cross, he turns to hear the voice of God.
Rest on the flight into Egypt
Travelling to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod, the Holy family is seen resting beside a stream. Joseph is in the background, and it may be Salome the midwife who gives cherries a fruit which alludes to Paradise, to baby Jesus while a shepherdess looks on. The distant obelisk and the sarcophagus may refer to their destination or more generally to the sacrifice of Christ.
Noah makes a sacrifice on reaching dry land in the ark after the flood. All manner of domestic animals and colourful birds huddle around the family and its polished metal pots and rich textiles. The path of light which begins with the lamb and the white cloth culminates with the dramatic image of God for ‘the odour and the sacrifice pleased the Lord’ (Genesis 8:21). Castiglione worked in Genoa but visited Rome, Naples, Venice and Mantua. Influences on his work included Rubens, Bernini and Cortna. Nicolas Poussinand was also well known for such astonishingly crowded paintings of Biblical journeys.
Martyrdom of St Bartholomew
Cavallino builds up his forms with a dense impasto and used strong colour effects with a silvery quality on the two key figures, rare in art from Naples. He may have been influenced by Stanzione. While his art may appear to look forward to the Rococo it has more substance of feeling and intent. St Bartholomew was skinned alive for destroying temples in India and this work has a dark brooding quality to its stark realism. The elegant soldier in the hat is Cavallino.
David with the head of Goliath
The influence of Caravaggio can be seen in the naturalistic rendering of the muscular arm, the interest in realistic detail and the dramatic lighting. The unusual cross-shaped composition reflects this artist’s mannerist background. The artist has relished the painting of the soft hair, tough bristles of fur, net bag and stones.
St Mary of Egypt
In the 5th century Mary of Alexandria converted to Christianity in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, beginning a life of extreme penance by living in the desert on three small loaves. They also allude to the Eucharist. Ribera settled in Naples in 1616 and blends Spanish realism with idealisation from the Carracci and chiaroscuro from Caravaggio.
Dolci was known in Florence for his works of careful but extravagant piety, usually set in a twilight sky. His style parallelled the contemporary High Baroque classicism in Rome. His work was often commissioned by men of the church with provincial, conservative tastes. St Sebastian was shot with arrows for defending two of his Christian companions in the Roman army. He is shown as a smooth adolescent in an ecstasy of faith, holding the arrows but without injuries. St Sebastian became a protector from pestilence for people who believed the plague was caused by Apollo’s arrows.
Landscape with shepherds
A French painter who settled in Rome with his brother in-law Nicolas Poussin, Dughet specialised in landscapes which he painted quickly. Travellers, especially the English, collected his works which contributed to the understanding of what a picturesque landscape should be. Tiny foreground figures on a rustic path are separated by deep shadows from a background of stone buildings. These and the mountain beyond are bathed in a golden light.
Domenico Fetti studied in Rome between the first and second decade of the 17th century under Ludovico Cigoli, who upheld the “reformed” Tuscan current, paying particular attention to the great Venetian painting of the Cinquecento.
Christ on the mount of olives
After the Last Supper and immediately before his arrest, Christ retired to the Mount of Olives to pray. There he struggled between the two sides of his nature, the human and the divine. The disciples Peter, James and John accompanied him and slept while Jesus was visited by the angel. Peter is closest with grey hair and a sword, John is the youngest and James has a beard. In front of the distant city of Jerusalem an approaching group of figures led by Judas can be seen.
Paintings such as this were made for the homes of rich, refined patrons of the arts. Cleopatra, the legendary Queen of Egypt killed herself for love. She is shown here without her traditional asp, revealing her royal status by precious jewels and opulent 18th century dress. Her bare breast alludes to her death, now close at hand. Cairo was another artist influenced by the dramatic lighting of Caravaggio’s paintings, which he saw while he was a court painter in Turin.
Rest on the flight into Egypt
Baciccio made his name in his youth as a portrait painter before leaving Genoa for Rome. With the encouragement of Bernini he became a daring Baroque ceiling decorator. Mary and Joseph with the Christ child fled Bethlehem when Herod ordered all boys under two years of age to be killed. This depiction of the mother and child resting on the flight to Egypt predicts the pieta, a later scene in the life of Christ in which the dead body of Christ lies across the lap of his mother. Joseph unsaddles the donkey in the background where the broad landscape emphasises a sense of serenity.
Portrait of Cardinal Giulio Spinola
This lively portrait captures the Genoese-born Cardinal looking up from reading a letter which he holds delicately in his fine fingers.The cascading, reflective fabric in the background and the shine of luscious velvet of his cape demonstrates Gaulli’s skill in illusionistic techniques. He studied the work of Corregio in Parma and was encouraged and influenced by Bernini.
The Rape of the Sabines
The Archangel Gabriel appearing to St Zachary
A supernatural light illuminates the many figures in this dramatic canvas. Zaccariah was a priest in a temple where the angel appeared to tell him he would become the father of St John the Baptist. The vision rendered him dumb until the birth so that he communicated with his hands to the congregation.
This three quarter length figure of an elegant St George holding a spear and a snake-like dragon unites a sumptuous naturalism with Carravaggio’s dramatic lighting. The bright colours and the rich fabrics show Guarino’s indebtedness to Venetian art although he worked almost exclusively in Campania, southern Italy.
The multiplication of the loaves
A Baroque artist, Lanfranco studied with the Carracci in Bologna and influenced artists in Naples, especially Giordano. ‘Our fathers did eat manna in the desert as it is written. He gave them bread from Heaven to eat’ (John 6:31).The diffused flickering light and fluid movement of the drapery intensifies this supernatural event.
The Tribute to Caesar
Manfredi was known throughout Italy as Caravaggio’s closest follower. However he did more than copy the lighting and realism of Caravaggio. Here he has contrasted the obsequious body language of the tax collectors with the upright and direct stance of Jesus, whose figure is emphasised by the red garment.
The Tribute money
Peter was asked by tax collectors whether his master contributed to the tax levied on all Jews for the upkeep of the Temple. Jesus told Peter to cast his line into the lake. This painting captures in dramatic fashion the moment when Peter finds the silver coin in the fish’s mouth, sufficient to pay the tax for them both. Preti was a prollific Neopolitan painter whose easel paintings reflect the realism of Caravaggio.
Matyrdom of St Rufina and St Seconda
This rare painting was created by three Mannerist artists from Lombardy. During the 1620s Scipione Torsco from Milan commissioned three artists to paint this dramatic work. Although working simultaneously they concentrated on different parts of the painting. Procaccini painted the figure of St Rufina and the consoling angel on the right. Cerano created the figures on the left, the decapitated St Seconde, the curious dog, the angel and the knight. Morazzone painted the executioner, the rider in shadow and the angel in flight.
The betrayal of Christ
On a trip to Genoa in 1618 from his home town of Milan, Procaccini may have seen the dramatic baroque paintings of Rubens. Some influence from Rubens can be seen in the awkward pose of Jesus, the dramatic colour and the cropped composition. Jesus is shown here at the significant moment when Judas reaches to kiss him, the prearranged sign to identify Christ to the soldiers, who then throw ropes around him and take him prisoner.
Reni dominated the Bolognese school in the 17th century and boasted he ‘could paint heads with their eyes uplifted a hundred different ways’ to express divine inspiration. Mary Magdalene in the grotto of St Baume devoted herself for 30 years in penance, living frugally on root vegetables.
Scene of witchcraft
Rosa rejected the customary relationship between artist and patron, refusing to paint on commission and rejecting interference in his choice of subject. He selected sensational subjects such as this to attract attention to his work.
Later in the 18th century Rosa’s macabre paintings influenced artists associated with Romantic Neo Classicism, especially in England.
Hagar and Ishmael
Andrea Sacchi’s restrained and sombre style shows the influence of Carracci’s opposition to the more flamboyant, extrovert aspects of the High Baroque and his working methods have been described as slow and thoughtful. In this work he captures the moment when the angel is disclosing the drinking water to the dying Ishmael. The first son of Abraham was banished with his mother Hagar to perish in the desert of Beersheba.
Shepherdess with ram
Tommaso Salini was a contemporary rival of Caravaggio and his influence can be seen in the strong light, which enhances the solidity of the figures. Mars the God of War is represented here by the ram of the Zodiac and was often depicted this way in pastoral scenes associated with the month of March. Salini may also be suggesting a religious connection, as the Virgin Mother is traditionally shown wearing blue and red.
The parting of St Peter and St Paul led to matyrdom
Giovanni Serodine was a Roman painter and stuccoist (maker of plaster architectural decorations). In this work Serodine’s strong contrast of light and shadow and the bright red of St Paul’s clothing add drama to the scene as the two apostles clench hands and knowingly face martyrdom. The figures modelled on humble peasants are overwhelmingly physical and recall the work of Caravaggio. Although his forcefully naturalistic style conflicted with the predominantly classicising tendencies of Roman art in the 1620s Serodine continued to win many official commissions.
Madonna and Child
Stanzione, in Naples, was influenced by Ribera’s chiaroscuro and the figurative classicism of the Carracci in Bologna. His work is formal and elegant. The diagonal composition uses light to draw attention to the faces of the Madonna and child. It is presented like an icon with no background.
The parable of the wedding guests
A Genoese who belonged to the Capuchin order, Strozzi became one of the many foreign residents seeking inspiration in Venice. This is a study for a larger canvas for a church in Venice. The king was angry when invited guests refused a wedding invitation so sent his servants to the streets to gather people. One who was not wearing wedding clothes was tied hand and foot and thrown out. Jesus’s parable is that ‘Many are invited, but few are chosen’.
Paradise- the vision of St Domenico
This is a study for a ceiling fresco in a church in Genoa. A Genoese who belonged to the Capuchin order he became one of the many foreign residents seeking inspiration in Venice. His modelling of forms with a brush indicates an interest in Barocci, Tintoretto, Ribera and Rubens.
The allegory of the slaughter of the innocents
Piero Testa was based in Rome where he shared an interest in the classical tradition with artists such as Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. At the end of his short life he was better regarded as a print maker and draughtsman, having suffered from a lack of patrons for his painting. He was found drowned in the River Tiber aged 37. The massacre of the innocents is the story of King Herod’s slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem. The beatific infants, the first martyrs in heaven, watch the dramatic tableau on the step of Herod’s palace. The lamb clutched to the angel’s breast symbolises innocence and sacrifice. The angled composition allows us to witness the escape of Mary and Joseph and the infant Jesus, and juxtaposes the dramatic foreground with the classical landscape.
An allegory of agriculture, astronomy and architec
This is a 17th century classical symbolic story. One figure grafts a citrus tree, a sickle is at his feet. The central figure refers to the passing of time by the armillary sphere and hour glass while a mirror implies self reflection. Domenchino painted this to celebrate the achievements of a learned cardinal who was his patron.