Skip to main content


Domenico zampieri, la sibilla persica 2
The Persian Sybil, 1600's

Domenico Zampieri was born October 21, 1581 in Bologna. A student of the Accademia degli Incamminati he would work in Rome with Annibale Carracci in Rome on the Farnese frescoes. His career would be defined by his work with not only paintings but ceilings and frescoes. Nicknamed Domenichino for his short height, he was also known as Il Bue (the ox) for his stubbornness and disciplined work methods. Although not a well-known figure in the Baroque it is his use of color and the way he painted women in particular that makes Domenichino unique. His rivalry with former collegue Giovanni Lanfranco would greatly upset him over the years, eventually bringing him to work in Naples where he could work without needless comparison to him.

The Persian Sybil demonstrates his particular genius for painting women. Draped in vivid blue and red with traces of yellow, Domenichino's effortless grace and strong face of this lovely woman is mesmerizing. Note the muted highlights on the drapery. The headdress is striking also. Domenichino gives us a contemporary portrait of the Italian woman in his day, real and idealized at the same time, strong yet very feminine.

Last Communion, 1614

This poignant Baroque painting, arranged in a very tight vertical composition, depicts the last communion of St. Jerome from Saint Ephrem. Kissing the hand of St. Jerome is Saint Paula of Rome, who helped him translate the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin as she was well-versed in Hebrew. Considered a masterpiece in its time, rivalled only by Raphael's Transfiguration, Domenichino uses not only chiaroscuro but vibrant color and dramatic facial expressions. Note the influence of Da Vinci in the delicate rendering of the angels above.

Saint Agnes, ca.1620

Domenichino portrays the saint of young girls and chastity with a luxurious grace and dignity not normally bestowed upon a saint. Her drapery has such an ornate fringing and her color palette of warm colors is intriguing. Domenichino's architectural setting helps frame the subject and gives a warmth to the painting. The urn to her left is especially striking. Note the foreshortened angel that crowns her.

Domenichino adam eve
Adam and Eve, ca.1625

Taking direct inspiration from Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, he creates the theme of God and his angels as Divine Brain or Intelligence, staring down towards the innocence of Eve and Adam who shrugs toward his female counterpart. Note the headless angels floating near God. This painting has a comical, cartoony quality to it, as if the story in Genesis was apocryphal even in the time of Domenichino. It is hard to believe that this is the very same painter of the above examples, and I am not sure at all who commissioned this or why it was painted in this way. It is interesting, though.

Domenichino - Portrait of a Young Man - WGA06401
Portrait of a Young Man, 1603

A distinguished portrait that shows what Domenichino could do with a limited palette and an elegant pose. Some believe this might be a self-portrait of Domenichino in his early twenties, but here this young man is tall and has no indication of being an artist. It is a portrait about confidence and self-assuredness.

A sample of Domenichino's work from the ceiling of Sant Andrea Della Valle in Rome

Domenichino is another painter that is difficult to define because of his varied styles and approaches to his subjects much like Luca Giordano, but his talents were evident and showcase an artist who made the mundane appear more beautiful and made women as important as men in portraiture.

Popular posts from this blog

More Old Master Drawings

There is nothing in all the world more beautiful or significant of the laws of the universe than the nude human body.
Robert Henri

Charles Louis Müller, A Standing Female Nude Leaning Against an Arch, ca.1864

Once again I decided to talk about some Old Master drawings and delve into the thinking behind how these drawings may have been created and the knowledge of the artist. In the above drawing by Müller, done in sanguine with white chalk highlights, the figure is drawn from a low view-point, with her body twisting toward her left side while resting on one knee. Note how Müller alternates the bent right leg with the bent left arm to create dynamic contrast. The right arm is also foreshortened and partially in shadow. Expressing power and femininity, this is a study that is Renaissance in spirit, even Mannerist, revealing the female nude as sculptural yet always graceful.

Anton Raphael Mengs, Seated male nude viewed from the back, 1755

One of several Academic nude studies by Mengs, this …

Guercino il Magnifico

Self-Portrait of the Artist holding a Palette, ca.1635

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, known as Guercino was born on February 8, 1591 in Cento, a small city near Ferrara. He is one of the great masters of the Italian Baroque and poet of painters. Noted for his speed and efficiency, Guercino also worked in a number of mediums with equal passion whether ink, chalk, charcoal, or oils. His nickname, which means 'little cross-eyes' in Italian, derives in part from an apocryphal childhood accident where he supposedly awoke from a deep sleep as a child from a loud scream that caused his eyes to cross. Another story says something was thrown into his eyes. At any rate, he was self-taught as an artist from as early as nine years old and by his early teens was discovered by the eldest of the Carracci where he would spend some time at the Accademia Degli Incamminati before venturing out on his own. Despite his apparent 'handicap', his vision and talent would make him a giant that few…

Pompeo Batoni

Apollo and two Muses, 1719

Giant of the Rococo and early Neoclassicism, Pompeo Batoni was born on January 25, 1708 in Lucca, Italy. Immensely popular in his time, his name sadly is not commonly recognized today because like many Old Masters, his work is not defined by one or two singular masterpieces but by an oeuvre that is overall, incredible. Batoni is something of an anomaly in that he had the midas touch in every genre he worked in, whether portraiture, mythological, and biblical. He trained under a few painters, notably Sebastiano Conca yet he quickly fused his own style together by reinterpreting Classicism with his own vigor for dynamic posing, color and anatomy that he felt was lacking in many artists of the Rococo. His reputation as a portraitist in Rome was highly successful, particularly for many British patrons of the Grand Tour who had heard of Batoni by word of mouth and sought his genius.

In Apollo and two Muses above Batoni seems to conjure mythology and Classicism w…