SAMBACH, Caspar Franz
(b. 1715, Breslau, d. 1795, Wien)

St Charles Borromeo Administers the Sacrament to the Plague-Infected

Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 cm
Christian Museum, Esztergom

This oil sketch (bozzetto) is linked to one of Caspar Franz Sambach's early works, the interior decoration of the parish church in Sloup, Moravia, a grand ensemble of magnificent frescoes and altarpieces, which were completed between 1751 and 1754. The Esztergom bozzetto, and a slightly larger and more complete version in Wroc³aw (Narodowe Museum, Wroc³aw), were produced for the side altarpiece dedicated to St Charles Borromeo. The composition follows Pierre Mignard's painting for the high altar of the Church of San Carlo ai Catinari in Rome, probably by way of an intermediary engraving.

Charles Borromeo, the archbishop of Milan at the time of the great plague of 1576, fought heroically against the epidemic; following his canonisation in 1612, he was accorded reverence similar to that of the medieval plague saints. His cult outside Milan strengthened in Rome at first, and then, through Borromeo family connections in Salzburg, it grew further during the reign of Charles VI spreading throughout the Habsburg Empire.