The Baroque painter Giovanni Lanfranco (1582 – 1647) painted these frescoes on the dome of the Roman church of San Andrea della Valle between 1625 and 1628. A church in which the painter Il Domenichino had also worked a few years earlier, specifically on the apse and the pendentives of the dome. And it is that Domenichino began to work in this temple practically from the same moment since the works of him, projected by Carlo Maderno, were finished.
Dome of San Andrea della Valle
However, when they wanted to paint the dome, they wanted something more spectacular than Il Domenichino's style, so they commissioned Lanfranco. The truth is that when his work was inaugurated in 1628, the chronicles of the time relate that it was a complete success and that it came to be considered one of the greatest works of Roman art.
In the dome, Lanfranco presents us with the theme of the Assumption of the Virgin, and he does so by pretending that the dome is the sky itself. It is a perspective that is called “di sotto in sú”, from top to bottom, with which it intends to break architecture and make the viewer believe that the sky opens up above him. In other words, it is an extraordinarily theatrical resource, and therefore very much in the baroque style.
It must be taken into account that during the second half of the 16th century and the first two decades of the 17th, theThe trend was that the churches were not decorated and were very austere, something very much in line with the dictates that emerged from the Council of Trent, and whose maximum exponent could be the church of Il Gesú of Vignola, a temple that for years remained blank until many decades after its opening it was decided to decorate it with frescoes.
For this reason, it is not strange that the work amazed at the time. In addition to the fact that it is of great technical perfection, since Lanfranco borders on virtuosity when it comes to posing those perspectives and the foreshortening of the many figures.
Such a vision was not invented by Giovanni Lanfranco, it has its antecedents from theRenaissance, and among them is the main model for him. These are the paintings that Correggio made between 1520 and 1521 for the church of Saint John the Evangelist in Parma, and in the Cathedral of the same city, coincidentally Lanfranco's birthplace. In the latter he also made an Assumption of the Virgin in the dome, with a daring “di sotto in sú” where all the characters lean on clouds that form concentric and ascending circles. In other words, with an approach very similar to the one used by Lanfranco a century later.