(b. ca. 1555, Bologna, d. 1629, Milano)

The Last Judgment

San Prospero, Reggio Emillia

This large fresco is in the apse of the San Prospero in Reggio Emilia.

In the Renaissance period the decoration of the church is frequently focused on the apse and the entrance wall. These terminal walls of extended interior spaces are visible from a great distance, catching visitors' attention. The decoration of the apse towers over the events of mass at the high altar; the decoration of the inside wall of the façade serves as an admonition or reinforcement for the visitors as they leave the liturgical ceremony and the church. Large format in both places called for fundamental, weighty themes.

Examples of large-scale painted apse recesses are common in the areas ruled by Venice but also in Emilia. A large-scale fresco in the apse vault or on an entrance façade could appear to break open the surface of the wall to provide a vision of the heavens or a view of an historical event; alternatively, it could illusionistically extend the existing architecture and enliven it with holy figures.

Camillo Procaccini placed a Last Judgment in the semicircular apse of San Prospero in Reggio Emilia, the church of the patron saint of the city. A painted retable with the Lamentation of Christ looms up from below, drawing the viewer in. Above it, and seemingly behind it, the wall opens up onto a powerful vision of the Second Coming of Christ, with Christ as judge, resurrecting the dead and punishing the damned: behind death and sorrow awaits resurrection. The lower section of the painting, with death and resurrection, recedes into the depth with the curve of the wall; the heavenly hosts, by contrast, come out toward the viewer along the vaulting of the apse, as if they were pushing their way into the church.