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Padre Andrea Pozzo

Italian, 1642 - 1709

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Andrea Pozzo was perhaps the most imaginative Italian painter, architect, and theoretician practicing in the last decade of the seventeenth century and the first of the eighteenth century. He studied painting in Trento, and in 1665 he joined the Society of Jesus in Milan, as a lay brother, a vocation that he followed throughout his life. After a three-year novitiate in Genoa, Pozzo transferred to Milan, where, from 1668 to 1681, he lived in the Casa Professa of S. Fedele. The Jesuits recognized Pozzo's skill as a painter early on, and at S. Fedele he produced a series of highly acclaimed ephemeral decorations. While based in Milan, he executed important works in other north Italian centers, notably the church of S. Francesco Saverio at Mondovi and the Jesuit church in Turin (1678).

In 1681, on the advice of Carlo Maratti, Padre Giovanni Paolo Oliva, the general of the order, called Pozzo to Rome. Among Pozzo's first works after his arrival were the frescoes in the corridor outside the rooms occupied by Saint Ignatius in the Casa Professa of the Gesù (1681- 86) and the fictive dome and baldachin in the Jesuit church at Frascati (1681-84). In 1682 he designed the first of several ephemeral structures that transformed the interior of the Gesù on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary devotions. In these designs for sacred theatrical performances Pozzo experimented with sophisticated illusionistic effects that fused painting, stagecraft, and architecture.

Pozzo's undisputed Roman masterpieces are in the two great Jesuit churches of S. Ignazio and the Gesù. For S. Ignazio he painted the fictive dome (1684-85), nave vault (1688-94), and choir (1685-88; 1697-1701), as well as designing the altar of S. Luigi Gonzaga (1697-99). For the Gesù he designed the altar of St. lgnatius Loyola (1695-99) fusing architecture, sculpture, and painting: a set piece of Baroque religious art, the influence of which extended well into the eighteenth century. In the 1690s, perhaps encouraged by the success of his two great altars, Pozzo began to engage directly with real three-dimensional architectural projects. These included several proposals for the façade of St. John Lateran that acknowledge his debt to Francesco Borromini. In 1699-1700 Pozzo furnished designs for the Jesuit church in Dubrovnik and the cathedral of Ljubljana. In 1700-02 he sent designs to Trento for the church of S. Francesco Saverio, and in 1701-2 designed the Jesuit church in Montepulciano.

In 1703 Pozzo left Rome for Vienna. There, until his death in 1709, he was engaged in a number of important projects, including the Universitätskirche (1703-9), the frescoes of the Marmorsaal of the Liechtenstein garden palace (1704-9), and the ciborium of the Franziskanerkirche (1706). While in Vienna, Pozzo trained a number of followers who extended his work geographically into central Europe and chronologically well into the eighteenth century.

Pozzo's treatise Perspectiva pictorum et architectorum, published in two volumes (1693 and 1700), greatly enhanced his influence. It was rapidly translated into the major European languages and became a sourcebook for many eighteenth-century architects and designers. Not only did it provide practical instruction and a rich repertory of forms, but it also codified an essentially scenographic approach to architecture that would flourish in Rome for the next century. For Pozzo, the practice of architecture involved the pictorial- and graphic- representation of illusionistic space as much as it did the shaping of three-dimensional space. Pozzo claimed an independent reality for architectural drawings; in his treatise they function as distinct entities, in no way subordinate to built structures. Architecture, for him, was ultimately a system of representations, an intellectual and optical abstraction rather than an arrangement of concrete forms.

John Pinto, from Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century (2000), p. 145.

Pozzo, Andrea. Perspectiva pictorum et architectorum Andreae Putei e societate Jesu. 2 vols. Rome: Johannis Jacobi Komareck, 1693-1700;
Kerber, Bernhard. Andrea Pozzo. Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1971;
De Feo, Vittorio. Andrea Pozzo architettura e illusione. Rome: Officina, 1988;
Pascoli, Lione [1674 - 1744]. Vite de'pittori, scultori, ed architetti moderni. 1730-36; Perugia, Italy: Electa, 1992, pp. 691-715;
Andrea Pozzo 1996;
De Feo, Vittorio, and Vittorio Martinelli, eds. Andrea Pozzo. Milan: Electa, 1996.

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