(b. 1639, Genova, d. 1709, Roma)
Apotheosis of St Ignatiusc. 1685
Oil on canvas, 48 x 63,5 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
This small oil painting showing the Apotheosis of St Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit order, is a bozzetto - a preparatory sketch for the fresco Baciccio executed for the vaulting of the left transept of the order's principal church of Il Gesù in Rome. The bozzetto differs from the fresco only in a few of the angel figures and in the use of stronger colours. Although the apotheosis of the saint has a firm place in the overall ecclesiastical programme of the church, from which it cannot be dissociated, this oil study is nevertheless an independent painting, executed with greater care than one might expect of a sketch.
The saint is carried heavenwards by a group of music-making, flower-strewing angels that are inebriated with joy. His arms spread wide, he soars towards a golden stream of light that is breaking through from the depths of the heavens. Baciccio does not treat this supernatural triumphal procession as a transcendental vision, but as a real occurrence. The body of the saint and the angels are not transcended by light, but are sculpturally tangible, and in its earthly corporeality, the painting mediates between the world of the spectator and the light whose source remains invisible to us, but which is perceptible in the figure of the saint.