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Giovanni Battista Gaulli (Il Baciccio)
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It is believed that Gaulli, known as Baciccio (the Genoese nickname for Giovanni Battista), left his native Genoa after his entire family perished, presumably in the plague of 1657. At that time he moved permanently to Rome. During the decade of the 1660s Baciccio established himself as one of the leading artists working in the Eternal City, most particularly as the result of the favor of the illustrious sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Baciccio became a member of the Academy of Saint Luke in 1662 and held several offices in that body. Through Bernini's recommendation Baciccio was chosen over such competitors as Carlo Maratta, Giacento Brandi, and Ciro Ferri to execute the decorative cycle for the interior of the church of 11 Gesu, the recently completed mother church of the Jesuit order. Begun in 1676, the nave vault fresco, The T'iumph of the Name of Jesus, was unveiled on New Year's Eve of 1679. In this work, universally considered the culmination of baroque illusionistic ceiling painting, Baciccio masterfully orchestrated painting and sculptural details within the architectural context. He created a tumultuous scene of figures who seem to hover over or tumble into the viewer's space. Baciccio continued to work in 11 Gesu until 1685, frescoing nave, dome, pendentives, apse, and transept vaults. The total ensemble is one of the glories of the Counter-Reformation. Stylistically Baciccio's works reveal the lasting influence of his Genoese heritage. This early exposure to fellow Genoese artists, including Valerio Castello and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, is evident in the vibrant coloring, activated drapery, and fluid figural lines. In addition Baciccio employed the energetic brushstroke introduced to Genoa in the 1620s by the Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck. In his later works Baciccio set aside the flamboyant rhythms and colors of the high baroque, conceding to the ascendancy of late baroque classicism.