Pietro da Cortona

Dates1596 - 1669
BornCortona, Italy

In combining architecture, painting, and sculpture to act on viewers' emotions, Pietro da Cortona was the quintessential practitioner of the High Baroque style. Born in Cortona, he studied in Florence and then Rome, learning to paint primarily by teaching himself. Painter, architect, and sculpture designer, the energetic Pietro always worked simultaneously on architectural and decorative projects. He was influenced by the frescoes of Domenichino and Annibale Carracci and took the illusionism of Giovanni Lanfranco and Guercino to new levels. Pietro's huge ceiling of 1639 in Rome's Barberini Palace blended illusionism, color, and movement to overwhelm visitors. His dignified yet festive combination of paint and stucco became Europe's official decorative style for aristocratic dwellings.

Pietro da Cortona once wrote that architecture was only a pastime for him, but he was second only to Gian Lorenzo Bernini among seventeenth-century Roman architects. His finest building, SS. Martina e Luca, typifies the High Baroque in its interplay of light and shadow through convex and concave forms.