Feb 1, 2007

Sketch for "The Four Prophets of Israel" (for Il Gesù, Rome)

Sketch for "The Four Prophets of Israel" (for Il Gesù, Rome)

c. 1675–1677

Giovanni Battista Gaulli

(Italian, 1639–1709)

Oil on canvas

Framed: 81.3 x 68 x 9 cm (32 x 26 3/4 x 3 9/16 in.); Unframed: 67.3 x 55 cm (26 1/2 x 21 5/8 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1969.131



This small painting represents the four prophets of Israel: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. It is one of seven oil sketches made in preparation for the decoration of the four pendentives in the Jesuit Church of the Gesù in Rome. The artist, one of the most prominent large-scale decorative painters in Rome, is known for his grand painting of the vault of the Gesù. Gaulli followed the Italian decorative tradition by preparing this sketch, called a bozzetto, to work out his ideas before the final fresco was painted. Fresco painting was the most desirable media for public and private locations, created by mixing dry pigment into wet plaster. They are an ideal permanent decoration; however, the process is tedious and thorough preparation is essential to ensure high quality. Oil sketches would aid the artist in creating a final composition and choosing their palette and would be particularly helpful for awkward spacings such as the pendentive, an inverted triangle. In this scene, Gaulli changed his initial composition for the final presco, balanceing the four prophets and young putti, with the young Daniel as the most prominent figure motioning towards the dome.

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