(b. 1581, Bologna, d. 1641, Napoli)


Domenichino (Domenico Zampieri), Bolognese painter. He was Annibale Carracci's favourite pupil and one of the most important upholders of the tradition of Bolognese classicism. After studying with Calvaert and Lodovico Carracci he went to Rome (1602) and joined the colony of artists working under Annibale Carracci at the Palazzo Farnese. His only undisputed work there is the Maiden with the Unicorn, a charming, gentle fresco over the entrance of the Gallery.

By the second decade of the century he was established as Rome's leading painter and had a succession of major decorative commissions, among them scenes from the life of St Cecilia in San Luigi dei Francesi (1613-14). The dignified frieze-like composition of the figures reflects his study of Raphael's tapestries, and in turn influenced Poussin. The frescos in the pendentives and apse of Sant'Andrea della Valle (1624-8), his chief work of the 1620s. show a move away from this strict classicism towards an ampler Baroque style; but compared with his rival Lanfranco (who at this time was overtaking him in popularity) Domenichino never abandoned the principles of clear, firm drawing for the sake of more painterly effects.

In 1631 Domenichino moved to Naples, and in his ceiling frescos of the San Gennaro chapel in the cathedral he made even greater concessions to the fashionable Baroque. He met with considerable hostility in Naples from jealous local artists and was forced to flee precipitately in 1634. He later returned, but died before completing his work in the cathedral.

Domenichino was important in fields other than monumental fresco decoration, particularly as an exponent of ideal landscape, in which he formed the link between Annibale Carracci and Claude (four of his landscapes are in the Louvre). He was one of the finest draughtsmen of his generation (the Royal Library at Windsor Castle has a superb collection of his drawings) and also an excellent portraitist (Monsignor Agucchi, City Art Gallery, York, c.1610). In the 18th century his reputation was enormous - his Last Communion of St Jerome (Vatican, 1614) was generally regarded as one of the greatest pictures ever painted - but he fell from grace in the 19th century along with other Bolognese painters under the scathing attacks of Ruskin.