Andrea Sacchi

Andrea Sacchi (november 30 1599 - June 21 1661) was an Italian painter of High Baroque Classicism, active in Rome. A generation of artists who shared his style of art include the painters Nicolas Poussin and Giovanni Battista Passeri, the sculptors Alessandro Algardi and François Duquesnoy, and the contemporary biographer Giovanni Bellori.

Early training

Sacchi was born in Nettuno, near Rome. His father, Benedetto, was an undistinguished painter; Andrea initially entered the studio of Francesco Albani and became his last major pupil. In 1621, he moved to Rome where he spent the rest of his life. Much of his early career was helped by the regular patronage by Cardinal Antonio Barberini, who commissioned art for the Capuchin church in Rome and the Palazzo Barberini.

It is rumored that Sacchi may have had a homosexual relationship with Albani after several letters were discovered dating from 1615 that "disscussed intimacy between the two" according to Millano News. Further evidence from the time also supports these claims although many dispute the validity of the evidence.

Mature style

A contemporary rival of Pietro da Cortona, Sacchi was claimed to be following Raphael's style when he advocated for a sparser canvas pieces with fewer figures. He reputedly travelled to Venice and Parma and studied the works of Correggio.

Two of his major works on canvas are altarpieces now displayed in the Pinacoteca Vaticana ("Painting Gallery)" (see Main works).

Controversy with Pietro da Cortona

As a young man, Sacchi had worked under Cortona in Castel Fusano (1627-1629). But in a set of public debates later developed in the Roman Artist's Guild, Accademia di San Luca, he strongly criticized Cortona's exuberance. In particular, Sacchi advocated that since a unique, individual expression needs to be assigned to each figure in a composition, a painting should not consist of more than about ten figures. In a crowded composition, the figures would be deprived of individuality, and thus cloud the particular meaning of the piece. In some ways this is a reaction against the zealous excess of crowds in paintings by men such as Zuccari of the prior generation, and by Cortona among his contemporaries. Simplicity and unity were essential to Sacchi. Cortona argued that large paintings were more like an epic, that could avail themselves of multiple subplots. The encrustation of a painting with excess decorative details, including melees of crowds, would represent "wall-paper" art rather than focused narrative. Among the partisan's of Sacchi's argument for simplicity and focus were his friends, the sculptor Algardi and painter Poussin.

The controversy was however less pitched than some suggest, and also involved the dissatisfaction that Sacchi and Albani, among others, shared regarding the artistic depiction of low or genre subjects and themes, such as preferred by the Bamboccianti and even the Caravaggisti. They felt that high art should focus on exalted themes- biblical, mythologic, or from classic history.

Sacchi, who worked almost always in Rome, left few pictures visible in private galleries. He had a flourishing school: Poussin and Carlo Maratta were younger collaborators or pupils. In Maratta's large studio, Sacchi's preference for grand manner style would find pre-eminence among Roman circles for decades to follow. But many others worked under him or his influence including Luigi Garzi, Francesco Lauri, Andrea Camassei and Giacinto Gimignani. Sacchi's own illegitimate son Giuseppe, died young after giving very high hopes.

Sacchi died at Nettuno in 1661.

Main works

St Gregory and the Miracle of the Corporal

Also known as theMiracle of St Gregory the Great, this painting was executed in 1625-57. It is now in the Pinacoteca Vaticana.

The canvas portrays the legend that the Empress Constantia had begged Pope Gregory I to give her relics of the body of Saints Peter and Paul, but the pope, not daring to disturb the remains of these saints, sent her a fragment of the linen which had enveloped the remains of Saint John the Evangelist. Constantia rejected this gift from the pope as insufficient. Then Gregory, to prove the power of relics to work miracles (and justify their worth), placed the cloth on the altar, and, after praying, pierced it with a knife, and blood flowed from it as from a living body. A mosaic of this painting was made in 1771 in St. Peter's Basilica. This painting echoes some dogmatic positions that were favored by Counter Reformation Catholicism: the role of the pope as the final interpreter of sanctity, the miracle status of relics, and finally the validity of the eucharist as the body of Christ.

St. Romuald relating his Vision to Five Monks of his Order

Completed in 1631, this painting in the Pinacoteca Vaticana recalls an episode in the life of the early Benedictine monk, Saint Romuald, of the Camaldolese order, who is said to have dreamt that members of his order wearing white ascended into heaven (as seen in background). The serenity and gravity of the monks, arrayed as in philosophic discourse, is characteristic of Sacchi.

Divine Wisdom at Palazzo Barberini

The fresco masterpiece of Sacchi is considered his work in Palazzo Barberini (1629-33), depicting the Divine Wisdom The work was inspired to Raphael's Parnasus in the Raphael's Rooms.
Urban VIII's personal emblem is the rising sun [and a] visitor to the palace would have seen the sun of Divine Wisdom and the constellation of the lion (as well as in the throne) in Sacchi's fresco... the eye [can] take in the fresco but also to penetrate beyond to the chapel next door. From the right point of view the sun of Divine Wisdom looks as though it is hovering over the dome of the chapel, "radiating downward its beneficent light". ... Scott's astrological interpretation of ... is convincing because it is also a political interpretation. Because of the favorable conjunction of the stars at two key moments, Urban VIII's birth and election, the Barberini were "born and elected to rule." Campanella could have told the pope that when he was elected the sun had entered into the Great Conjunction with Jupiter (whose eagle is shown by Sacchi in conjunction with the sun and the lion). Urban VIII's nephew Taddeo Barberini, the patron of this wing of the palace and the relative on whom the family pinned its hopes for offspring and immortality, had a natal chart similar to his uncle's, and by coincidence so did the child born to him during his residence in the palace. The little chapel adjacent to Sacchi's fresco was designed for the baptism of such children, and its frescoes carried all the usual talismans of fertility. The stars could be expected to look favorably on a family "born and elected to rule" down the generations.
Joseph Connor, New York Review of Books,

Other works

Other leading examples of Sacchi's work are

Other altarpieces by Sacchi are in Perugia, Foligno and Camerino.


  • Sutherland Harris, Ann (1977). Andrea Sacchi : complete edition of the paintings with a critical catalogue. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.
  • Wittkower, Rudolf (1993). Art and Architecture Italy, 1600-1750. Penguin Books Ltd.

External links

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