CAMPI, Vincenzo
(b. ca. 1530, Cremona, d. 1591, Cremona)

The Ascension of Christ

San Paolo Converso, Milan

The picture shows the decoration of the vault of the cloister church San Paolo Converso in Milan.

Illusionistic perspectival effects were the aim of the 'quadratura' painting. It built fictive structures in the vaults of churches and extended the walls of the space upward through imaginary painted vistas. The masterpiece in this genre is found in the convent church of San Paolo Converso in Milan. The long hall of the church is divided by a wall into an area for the laity in front and one for the nuns in the back. In the vault of the nuns' church Antonio and Vincenzo Campi depicted the Assumption of the Virgin in 1586-88, and Vincenzo painted the Ascension of Christ in the lay church in 1588. In each case the vault is united into a single large illusionistic architectural structure that opens through a shaft in the centre onto the heavens and the apotheosis of Christ or of Mary. Along the spring line of the vault there is a series of painted arches, offering places for the apostles as witnesses.

The actual, simple room of the church in which viewers stand is enriched and made more splendid by this fictive architecture and is connected to the world in heaven by these illusionistic stages. The church is transformed into a holy site of divine epiphany thanks to the compelling power of the optical illusion. The centring the whole room on a single, dominant vision of heaven had countless successors in Baroque ceiling decoration.