OCTOBER 21, ON THIS DAY
Italian painter and draughtsman, Domenichino was one of the prominent exponents of the classical style that dominated the Roman art scene in the early seventeenth century. In Italian painting during the first half of the seventeenth century, Domenichino was the foremost representative of the more restrained, classical style, which was distinguished by organised, easily readable compositions and expressive motions and expressions with distinct definitions. His meticulous working process involved meticulously planning compositions in advance through preliminary sketches and studies, the bulk of which are now on display at the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. On the basis of his frescoes and altarpieces, he became established as the most influential exponent of the 17th-century classical style.
Domenico Zampieri, known as Domenichino from 1614, was born in Bologna on October 21, 1581. He was an Italian Baroque painter of the Bolognese school. His professional life is indebted to the Carracci family of painters, of whom two brothers trained him in Bologna and Rome respectively. In 1602 he moved to Rome and became a favoured pupil and protégé of Annibale Carracci, assisting him with the completion of the celebrated Farnese Gallery.
Domenichino’s first great fresco cycle was completed between 1612-1615 in the French national church of San Luigi dei Frances in Rome which depicts the life and martyrdom of St. Cecelia in a distinctly classical style. He simultaneously completed The Last Communion of St. Jerome for the church of San Girolamo della Carità, his earliest and most well-known altarpiece. Together with fellow Bolognese landscape painter Giovanni Battista Viola, Domenichino started working on the frescoes that depict the life of Apollo in the Stanza di Apollo at the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati in 1616. He also completed the famous canvas The Hunt of Diana at this time, which is notable for its sensitive colour and contrasts with the arid classicism of his frescoes.
Domenichino chose to leave Rome in 1631 despite his activities there in order to accept the most famous and profitable commission there: the decorating of the Cappella del Tesoro di San Gennaro of the Naples Cathedral. For the remainder of his life, he was preoccupied with Scenes from the Life of San Gennaro. He painted four large lunettes, four pendentives, and twelve scenes in the soffits of the arches, all in fresco, plus three large altarpieces in oil on copper. Before finishing the fourth altarpiece or the cupola, he passed away on April 6, 1641, possibly by poison administered by the envious Cabal of Naples.
The balanced and clear compositions, tranquil lighting, soft colours, and restrained attitudes and gestures of the figures all distinguish Domenichino\’s work. Domenichino read widely, was a talented musician, and was a skilled architect. His work strives for a type of exalted poetry. His dedication to other forms of creativity penetrates his paintings. Domenichino embraced the traditional idea that painting was like silent poetry and needed a specialised expressive vocabulary to be properly comprehended and decoded. Domenichino’s life and career ended in Naples where he faced the jealousy of other painters and demanding patrons.