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Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri)
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Known for his frescoes and altarpieces, Domenichino was a celebrated and influential Italian artist who helped establish the classical style of the 17th century. The son of a reasonably-prosperous shoemaker, Domenico Zampieri was born in Bologna in 1581. After attending the local grammar school, he began artistic training in Bologna with the Flemish painter Denys Calvaert (ca. 1540-1619). Fellow pupils included Guido Reni (1575-1642) and Francesco Albani (1578-1660). Apparently having been beaten by Calvaert for dropping a copper panel, Zampieri followed Reni and Albani and left Calvaert around 1595 for the Carracci family’s Accademia deglli Incamminati, where he studied under Ludovico Carracci (1555-1619), and received the nickname Domenichino (“little Domenico”). He probably worked on frescoes for the San Colombano oratory (ca. 1598-1600) as part of his training in the Carracci academy. Domenichino followed Albani and Reni to Rome in early 1602. He was part of Annibale Carracci’s team that painted frescoes in the garden casino of the Farnese Palace and the palace’s Galleria. He also copied works by Annibale Carracci in easel paintings, at least four of which survive. By 1604 Domenichino had moved into the house of two brothers from Bologna, Giovanni Battista Agucchi (1570-1632) and Cardinal Girolamo Agucchi (1555-1605). Among his commissions from Cardinal Girolamo were frescoes for the church San Onofrio. Thanks to recommendations by Annibale Carracci, Dominichino received his first major fresco commission from Cardinal Ordoardo Farnese (1573-1626) to decorate a chapel at the Gottaferrata Abbey (1608-1610), and another commission from Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1577-1633). Domenichino worked on other fresco projects with Albani late in that decade. In 1611 Domenichino received an altarpiece commission that would lead to his most famous work, Last Communion of St. Jerome (Rome: Vatican Museums), for the church of San Girolamo della Carità. He studied an altarpiece on the same theme by Agostino Carracci (1557-1602) while on a brief visit to Bologna in 1612, and completed the work in 1614. At the same time he was working on five frescoes for the St. Cecilia chapel in Rome’s French church, San Luigi dei Francesi, completed in 1615, and also counted among his masterpieces. He also received commissions from Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini (1571-1621), including ten frescoes at the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati. Then in 1617 Domenichino received a very large commission from Guido Nolfi (1554-1627) to decorate his family’s chapel in the cathedral at Fano on the Adriatic coast. Domenichino first went to Bologna in 1617 and then to Fano, probably early in the following year. The project included sixteen frescoes. In addition while in Fano he completed an altarpiece and two easel paintings. He was back in Bologna in 1619 to work on three major altarpieces, and about that time married Marsibilia Barbetti. The three altarpieces were uncompleted (but later finished) when Alessandro Ludovisi (1554-1623) was elected as Pope Gregory XV in 1621 and appointed Domenichino as Papal Architect with a handsome monthly pension. During the 1620s he received commissions for frescoes in Villa Ludovisi, at least three portrait commissions and a major commission to decorate the new church, Sant’Andrea della Valle, which was completed around 1627. Altarpiece commissions included a very large oil painting for St. Peter’s Basicilica. The commissions continued throughout the decade, until Domenichino was hired to create frescoes and altarpieces for the Naples Cathedral. He arrived in Naples by May, 1631 and in December witnessed the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, which inspired the first fresco he painted. Pressures from the Spanish Viceroy to do additional work and the efforts of Neapolitan artists to disrupt his commission led him to fear for his life, and in the summer of 1634 he fled to Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati and later that year to Rome, where he was protected. Domenichino had returned to Naples by June 1635 and continued work on the Cathedral, which was continuing in 1641 when he drafted his last will and testament. Three days later he died with his work unfinished; his widow and one biographer thought he was poisoned. (TNB 3/2105) Selected bibliography: Spear, Richard E. Domenichino. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1982