By Anne Leader

Baroque painter Giovanni Battista Gaulli, known as il Baciccio, was born on 8 May 1639 in Genoa. Nothing is known of his youth and training in Genoa, and he first appears on the art scene in Rome in 1658, where he spent the rest of his life (d. 1709). While working for the Genoese art dealer Pellegrino Peri, Gaulli met the great Gianlorenzo Bernini and became his protégé. He then succeeded in receiving numerous commissions for altarpieces and portraits. He is best known for his stupendous trompe l’oeil ceiling paintings like his Adoration of the Name of Jesus painted between 1674 and 1679 in the vault of the Jesuit mother church in Rome, which Robert Engages has called “one of the most radiant and joyous visions of a triumphant Catholicism.” Baciccio’s illusion is so convincing, it is difficult to tell what is painted and what is three-dimensional stucco work. He created a similar spectacle for the Franciscans at the Roman church of the Twelve Holy Apostles.

Reference: Robert Enggass. “Gaulli, Giovanni Battista.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.

Nave vault and Cupola, 1672-85, fresco. Il Gesù, Rome

The Three Maries at the Empty Sepulchre, 1684-85, oil on canvas. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Cardinal Leopoldo de’ Medici, c. 1667, oil on canvas. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Apotheosis of the Franciscan Order, 1707, fresco. Basilica Santi XII Apostoli, Rome

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