This painting, which came from the Chigi collection, was purchased by the Italian State in 1918. It was probably an altar painting commissioned for the chapel of Santissimi Apostoli in Palazzo Chigi in Rome, for which documents refer to a payment of 100 scudi made to Baciccio in March 1669. It would thus appear that the painting was made before Gaulli followed Bernini’s advice and went, in the spring of that year, to study in Modena and Parma. This would explain the great stylistic difference between this work and a later version with variations, probably a study, now in the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. The study uses a warmer palette and motifs suggested by Correggio.
The Chigi altar painting reveals many pictorial ideas acquired by the young Baciccio after his arrival in Rome and before his artistic association with Giovan Lorenzo Bernini, which was to have a profound influence on much of Gaulli’s artistic maturity.
Clear links can be seen with the Bologna school of painting in the works of the Carraccis, Domenichino, and especially Guido Reni, from whom the artist takes the lovely classical lineaments of the Madonna and the Mannerist features of the sleeping Child. Baciccio also pays homage to the latest developments in Baroque painting by Cortona, who uses light to infuse drapery and elements of the landscape with movement.
Maurizio Fagiolo dell’Arco