Judith as a butcher

01 Sep

More pendentives.   Triangular segments of a sphere, tapering to points at the bottom and spread at the top to establish the continuous circular or elliptical base needed for a dome.   Who knew you could use these architectural spaces to convey an artistic message?   Obviously, Andrea Pozzo.

Andrea Pozzo was a Jesuit Brother, painter, architect, decorator, stage designer, and art theoretician in Italy.  Pretty much a Giacchino-Of-All-Trades.   He is best known for frescoes on a grand scale using technique called quadratura, in which architecture and spatial effects are intermixed to create the illusion of three-dimensional space on an otherwise two-dimensional or mostly flat ceiling.   Pozzo was one of the best, creating the remarkable illusionistic cupola in nave ceiling of the Church of Sant’Ignazio in Rome and ceiling of the Jesuit church in Vienna.   He wrote the standard theoretical work of his artistic ideas in the two volumes, Perspectiva pictorum et architectorum Andreae Putei a societate Jesu (Rome, 1693-1700).

Pozzo’s cupola, Sant’ Ignazio, Rome, Italy

Pozz’s ceiling, Jesuit Church, Vienna, Austria

You would never guess from these photographs that the cupola of Sant’ Ignazio is actually flat instead of concave (going away from you) or the the ceiling in the Jesuit Church is actually a simple curve.   I can not imagine what combination of artistic skill, knowledge of human visual perspective and experience with engineering was needed to product these wonders.   Or how much my neck would ache trying to figure it out …

The painting on the ceiling of Sant’ Ignazio depicts the missionary spirit of Jesuit explorers and missionaries that expanded Roman Catholicism to other continents.   But it also portrays a combative Catholicism because, rather than the usual evangelists or scholars, Pozzo displayed the victorious warriors of the old testament in the pendentives: Judith and HolofernesDavid and Goliath; Jael and Sisera; and Samson and the Philistines.   It is said that when completed, some said “Sant’Ignazio was a good place to buy meat, since four new butchers are now there.” (1)

Pozzo Andrea, “Judith,” 1681-84, cupola pendentive, Sant´Ignazio, Rome, Italy

Judith is in the upper left corner of the cupola.   Nothing unusual here.  She dangles her bare feet over the edge of the pendentive as she clutches the sword in her right hand and raises the severed head in her left.   Pozzo also managed to show the dead body and the supportive maid in this space.

It’s nice to be included.

(1) Andrea Pozzo – wikipedia

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Posted by on September 1, 2011 in Glory


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