Baciccio (Giovanni Battista Gaulli)

Dates1639 - 1709
BornGenoa, Italy
DiedGenoa, Italy

"[His] manner . . . was powerful, extravagant and altogether beautiful; he need not have envied even the greatest master," wrote Baciccio's biographer. Early contact in Genoa, Italy, with works by Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck influenced Baciccio deeply, as did Genoese painter Bernardo Strozzi's broad, painterly manner and warm palette. After the plague killed his family in 1657, Baciccio moved to Rome, eventually becoming Gianlorenzo Bernini's protégé. Seeing Correggio's works in Parma in 1669 gave Baciccio's decorations a heightened illusionism and his easel pictures more tenderness.

Baciccio's most celebrated work is the ceiling in the church of Il Gesù in Rome, created from 1672 to 1683, whose conception owes much to his collaborator Bernini. In a dramatic innovation, Baciccio organized the ceiling's space by juxtaposing dark and light areas rather than by merely arranging the figures, and he merged painted figures with stucco ones joyously bursting from the frame.

Baciccio also painted altarpieces and mythological scenes. His portraits were so renowned that he was commissioned to paint seven popes. His many surviving drawings are all studies for paintings.