Today is the Feast Day of Saint Cecilia, an early Christian martyr memorably celebrated in fresco by Italian Baroque painter Domenichino. The artist was commissioned in 1612 by Cardinal Pierre Polet to decorate a chapel in the Roman church of San Luigi dei Francesi. The frescoes, which betray Domenichino’s appreciation of Renaissance master Raphael, commemorate important events from Cecilia’s life. Born to a wealthy Roman family, Cecilia converted to Christianity, then illegal, and gave away her wealth and possessions to the poor. Brought before the Emperor, she refused to worship a pagan idol and was sentenced to death. Because of her charity, faith, and willingness to die for her beliefs, she was granted the martyr’s crown and taken up into heaven.
She is the patron saint of musicians and church music, and is often shown with an instrument, as seen in an altarpiece by Raphael, which was copied by Guido Reni for the Polet chapel’s altar in 1598. Reni painted her again according to his own design in 1606.
Interest in and devotion to Cecilia intensified at the turn of the seventeenth century when her body was found uncorrupted under the floor of her titular church in Rome. Stefano Maderno famously recorded how she appeared in a marble sculpture commissioned to decorate her tomb after 1600.
Bolognese painter Domenico Zampieri, known as Domenichino, was supposedly born on this day in 1581. A student of Denis Calvaert and a member of the Carracci Academy, Domenichino was one of the leading proponents of the classical style that dominated the Roman art scene in the early seventeenth century. Like the Carracci, Domenichino looked to the High Renaissance master Raphael as a model and received important commissions for altarpieces, fresco cycles, and portraits.
Reference: Elizabeth Cropper. “Domenichino.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.<http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T023167>.
Madonna and Child with St Petronius and St John the Evangelist, 1629, oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome
Last Communion of St Jerome, 1614, oil on canvas, Rome: Pinacoteca Vaticana; photo credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY
St. Cecilia Distributing Alms and St. Cecilia before the Judge, 1612-15, fresco, Polet Chapel, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome
Diana and her Nymphs, 1616-17, oil on canvas, Galleria Borghese, Rome
Calling of the Apostles, 1624-5, fresco, Sant’Andrea della Valle, Rome
Portrait of Monsignor Giovanni Battista Agucchi, 1615-20, oil on canvas, York Art Gallery
Today is the Feast of St. Jerome, one of the Four Doctors of the Western Church. Jerome supposedly died at Bethlehem on 30 September 420 CE. A very popular saint in Italian art, Jerome is sometimes shown as as a cardinal in his study, in reference to his work translating the first Latin Bible. More commonly, Jerome is shown as a penitent hermit, dressed in a simple gray tunic with a bare chest, which he pounded with a stone to feel the pain of Jesus on the cross. Many images conflate these different roles to reference Jerome’s multifaceted reputation. He is also typically accompanied by a lion in reference to the story that he removed a thorn from the animal’s paw, which left the beast eternally indebted to him.
Saint Cecilia [with an Angel Holding a Musical Score] (c.1617-1618). Domenichino (1581–1641). Oil on canvas. Louvre.
This painting, commissioned by the Cardinal Ludovico Lodovisi, was inspired by Raphael’s St Cecilia.
Domenichino upheld of the tradition of Bolognese classicism. By 1610, he was established as Rome’s leading painter and had a succession of major decorative commissions, among them scenes from the life of St Cecilia in San Luigi dei Francesi (1613-14).