The present drawing is preparatory for Baciccio’s altarpiece depicting The Immaculate Conception with St. Francis and St. Clare, painted c. 1685 for the church of S. Margherita in Trastevere, Rome. The church was completely rebuilt in 1564 under the patronage of Donna Giulia Colonna, who consigned it to the neighbouring Franciscan Friars for whom Baciccio painted this altarpiece, explicitly celebrating St. Francis and St. Clare, the founders of their Order.
Documentary evidence confirms that the church was ceremonially reopened on 27 July 1680, when it was sumptuously decorated by order of Cardinal Girolamo Gastaldi, who generously sponsored the solemn celebration. According to Lione Pascoli (Vite de’ pittori, I, 1730, p. 202) Baciccio’s altarpiece was installed some five years later, c. 1685. A second preparatory drawing for the composition is preserved in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle. See Robert Enggass, The Painting of Baciccio, Giovanni Battista Gaulli 1639-1709, Pennsylvania University Press, 1964, who has kindly confirmed the attribution of our drawing.
Alessandro Maggiori (Lugt 3005b), by whom inscribed in pen and black ink at the lower right Il Gaulli fece and at the verso Aless. Maggiori acquistò in Roma nel 1809.
The recto is inscribed 15. by an earlier hand in the upper left corner.
Yvonne Tan Bunzl, see her catalogue Old Master Drawings, 1984, cat. no. 34.
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Giovanni Battista Gaulli began his artistic experience in Genoa, where he met the works of Rubens and Anton van Dyck, of whom he appreciated the colors and the softness of the painting. He attended the workshop of Andrea Borzone to settle later, from 1657, in Rome.
He became one of the most appreciated collaborators of Gian Lorenzo Bernini who proposed it for the decoration of the pendentives of the dome of Sant'Agnese in Agone and introduced it into the environment of the Jesuits, obtaining for him the commission for the decoration of the Church of Jesus. He frescoed the vault in which he painted the 'Triumph of the Name of Jesus', the presbytery and the chapel of St. Ignatius (1674-1679).
The frescoes of the vault, for their excellence, are considered the pictorial parallel of the altar by Bernini of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica. Bernini also proposed it for the altarpieces in Sant’Andrea al Quirinale and San Francesco a Ripa where the influence and the baroque taste of the great sculptor is evident.
In 1707 he frescoed the vault of the Basilica of the Holy Apostles with the Triumph of the Franciscan Order and dedicated himself to making cartoons for the mosaics in the baptismal chapel of St. Peter's Basilica.
He also worked in other famous churches including San Rocco in Augusteo, Santa Marta, Santa Maria Maddalena, at Palazzo Chigi and of course in Genoa.
He was an excellent portraitist among the portrayed Clemente IX and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.