Study for the Altar of Saint Luigi Gonzaga in the Church of Saint Ignazio, Rome

Padre Andrea Pozzo, Italian, 1642 - 1709

c. 1697

Red chalk on laid paper

Sheet: 10 3/4 x 8 9/16 inches (27.3 x 21.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Bequest of Anthony Morris Clark, 1978

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The Jesuit priest Padre Pozzo - who was a painter, architect, and theoretician - made this drawing in the early stages of developing his ideas for a grand altar decoration. The design includes an already existing architectural frame (aedicula) and proposes freestanding figures of the saint on his reliquary casket. The final sculpture took the form of a magnificent marble relief by Pierre Le Gros the Younger. On such projects several artists often worked together, or in succession; it was not unusual for a painter to provide the basic composition for a sculptor.

Additional information:
  • PublicationArt in Rome in the Eighteenth Century

    This drawing is of special interest because it appears to be a preparatory study for the altar of S. Luigi Gonzaga in S. Ignazio. While it bears certain similarities to Pozzo's altar of S. Ignazio in the Gesú, the colossal order of Corinthian pilasters framing the aedicule proves that the setting for the design is actually the transept of S. Ignazio. On the basis of documentary evidence, the drawing is unlikely to have been executed before the fall of 1696. It bears a close resemblance to the model for the S. Luigi Gonzaga Altar in the collection of the Museo Nazionale di Castel S. Angelo.

    In preparing this design fur the Gonzaga altar, Pozzo clearly used the earlier S. Ignazio altar as a point of departure. The sketch repeats the central motif of a freestanding statue of the saint set within a niche flanked by two columns with straight shafts. Pozzo may have borrowed the statues of Virtues flanking the columns from another project for the S. Ignazio altar: Sebastiano Cipriani's design of 1696. The drawing is also related to the designs for the Gonzaga altar that appear in Pozzo's treatise. In plate 64 of the second volume, which the artist described as his "prima idea," there are statues of Virtues and spiral columns, but no central niche. Much closer is the design illustrated in plate 65, which contains the Virtues as well as a freestanding statue of S. Luigi Gonzaga kneeling on his reliquary casket, an arrangement that resembles the sculptural group at the center of the drawing. As executed, the design of the altar is further removed from this sketch: the Virtues ate eliminated, the number of columns doubled, and the magnificent bas-relief by Pierre Legros II replaces the freestanding sculptural group.

    The drawing appears to have been executed in several stages. Using draftsmen's instruments, Pozzo drew in the outlines of the existing architecture and the dimensions of the niche to serve as a guide. Working freehand, he then rendered the architectural members of the aedicule in perspective, introducing strong passages of shadows that cast the projecting elements of the altar into relief. Finally, he shifted his concern to the design and placement of the sculpture. The study represents an interim stage in the conceptual process, especially striking in its spontaneity and rich in its power of suggestion. Because of its strength and the light it casts of the planning stages of the Gonzaga altar, it constitutes a significant addition to the corpus of drawings by or attributed to Pozzo. John Pinto, from Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century (2000), cat. 29, pp. 145-146.

    Pozzo, Andrea. Perspectiva pictorum et architectorum Andreae Putei e societate Jesu. 2 vols. Rome: Johannis Jacobi Komareck, 1693-1700, vol. 2, pp.64-65.
    Hiesinger, Ulrich W. and Ann Percy. A Scholar Collects: Selections from the Anthony Morris Clark Bequest. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1980, pp. 11-12.
    Contardi, Bruni. "Il modello di Andrea Pozzo per l'altare del Beato Luigi Gonzaga in Sant'Ignazio." In Bruno Contardi and Giovanna Curcio, eds. In urbe architectus: modelli, disegni, misure, la professione dell'architetto Roma, 1680-1750. Rome: Argos, 1991, pp. 23-39.
    Contardi, Bruno. "L'altare di San Luigi Gonzaga in Sant'Ignazio." In Andrea Pozzo 1996, pp. 97-120.
    Millon, Henry A., ed. Triumph of the Baroque: Architecture in Europe, 1600-1750. New York: Rizzoli, 1999, pp. 558-61.