Apotheosis of St Ignatius by Andrea Pozzo
Explanation of High Baroque Quadratura Painting

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Apotheosis of St Ignatius
By Andrea Pozzo.
Considered to be one of the
Greatest Paintings Ever.

Apotheosis of St Ignatius (1688-94)
Trompe l'oeil frescoes in Sant'Ignazio, Rome


Analysis of The Apotheosis of St Ignatius
Explanation of Other Famous Frescoes


Name: The Apotheosis of St Ignatius (1688-94)
Artist: Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709)
Medium: Fresco painting
Genre: Religious history painting
Movement: Baroque art
Location: Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Campus Martius, Rome

For an explanation of other celebrated oils and frescoes,
please see: Famous Paintings Analyzed (1250-1800).

For help in appreciating
religious paintings by
artists like Andrea Pozzo,
please see: Art Evaluation.


Arguably the greatest example of quadratura painting ever seen, The Apotheosis of St Ignatius was created by the Jesuit lay brother Andrea Pozzo (sometimes called Padre Pozzo) to decorate the dome, the apse and the ceiling in the huge Jesuit church of Sant' Ignazio (St. Ignatius of Loyola), in Rome. An absolute masterpiece of Baroque painting, it marks the apogee of trompe l'oeil art, a discipline in which architectural and painting unite to create illusions of space and perspective. Other important Italian Baroque artists who specialized in quadratura in Rome, were Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669), famous for his Allegory of Divine Providence (1633-39) in the Palazzo Barberini; and Giovanni Battista Gaulli (1639-1709), noted for his ceiling fresco Triumph of the Name of Jesus (1674) in the Church of the Gesu in Rome. Baroque aesthetics were particularly receptive to this sort of awe-inspiring Christian art but Pozzo and his contemporaries also benefited from the traditions established by Renaissance quadraturisti such as: Melozzo da Forli (1438-94), and Correggio (1489-1534), famous for his Assumption of the Virgin (Parma Cathedral) (1526-30).



Analysis of The Apotheosis of St Ignatius by Andrea Pozzo

Although Pozzo had undertaken numerous commissions to decorate Jesuit churches with Biblical art - using mural paintings marked by foreshortening as well as various illusionistic devices, such as fake ceilings, gilding, balustrades and other trompe l'oeil architectural motifs - the decoration of the Church of Sant' Ignazio was his first major fresco series. The church's decorative theme was the "Life and Apotheosis of Saint Ignatius Loyola" (1491-1556), founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and a key supporter of the more doctrinal Catholic Counter-Reformation Art, launched by the Council of Trent. The main theme - an allegory of the Apotheosis of St Ignatius - was painted on the ceiling of the nave, which looks like a lofty vaulted roof embellished by statues, even though the ceiling is actually completely flat. Pozzo opened up the nave ceiling further by painting an illusionistic cupola, open to the sky, and populated with upward floating figures. The ceiling fresco depicts the work of Saint Ignatius and the Society of Jesus; shows Saint Ignatius entering Paradise, being welcomed by Christ and the Virgin Mary; and also celebrates the work of Jesuit missionaries on four continents. In addition to the nave ceiling fresco, Pozzo completed three fresco paintings in the apse that surround the high altar - Saint Ignatius Loyola experiencing his vision at La Storta; sending St Francis Xavier to the Indies; and greeting St Francesco Borgia. Lastly, Pozzo was also responsible for the Assumption of the Virgin fresco on the ceiling of the chapel in the left transept, and for the St. Aloyzius Gonzaga in Glory fresco on the ceiling of the chapel in the right transept.

Pozzo's decorations set the standard for ceiling frescos throughout Catholic Europe, and were widely imitated in churches of the Jesuit order in Italy, Austria, Germany and Central Europe.

Explanation of Other Famous Fresco Paintings

Arena/Scrovegni Chapel Frescoes (1303-10) in Padua.
By Giotto.

Brancacci Chapel Frescoes (1424-8) in Florence.
By Masaccio and Masolino.

Camera Degli Sposi Frescoes (1465-74) Mantua.
By Andrea Mantegna.

Genesis Fresco (1511) Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Vatican.
By Michelangelo.

Last Judgment Fresco (1536-41) Altar Wall, Sistine Chapel, Vatican.
By Michelangelo.


• For more outstanding church murals from the High Baroque, see: Homepage.

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