LE GROS, Pierre the Younger
(b. 1666, Paris, d. 1719, Roma)

Religion Overthrowing Heresy and Hatred

1695-99
Marble, height 300 cm
Il Gesù, Rome

In 1695, Andrea Pozzo obtained the commission for one of the most splendidly extravagant of Baroque altars, that of the Jesuits' founder, St Ignatius Loyola, in the church of the Gesù. The altar occupies the whole of the left transept. The central group consists of the statue of the Saint beneath a representation of the Trinity. The central group is surrounded by gilt-bronze and marble reliefs illustrating scenes from Loyola's ministry as well as large marble tableaux of the triumphs of Faith and Religion. Jean-Baptist Théodon (1645-1713) executed the over life-size marble group of the Triumph of Faith over Idolatry and Pierre Le Gros the Religion Overthrowing Heresy and Hatred, both archetypal images of the Church Triumphant. The initial conception for each sculpture would have been supplied by Pozzo, whose earlier fresco in Sant'Ignazio essayed similar themes, but the sculptors must have been given a fairly free hand in realizing such abstract ideas.

In Le Gros' work, Religion hurls down thunderbolts upon an old woman representing Hatred while a male figure of Heresy writhes vanquished beneath; to reinforce the point, a putto cheerfully tears pages out of a volume by the Swiss reformer Zwingli, and a tome beneath the figure of Heresy bears Luther's name prominently on its spine.