Ritual, scenography and illusion: Andrea Pozzo and the religious theatre of the seventeenth century
In this PhD thesis I offer an examination of the work of Jesuit Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709), an artist known primarily for his works of perspectival fresco painting. Pozzo's development, his career and his multifaceted practice––which included painting, scenography, architecture, and a two-volume treatise on perspective–– together serve as a prime case study for understanding the relationship of the religious art and architecture of the seventeenth century to the period's culture of ritual and performance. Pozzo's work, I argue, is religious theatre, and the key to reading both his ephemeral scenographies and the permanent works of painting and architecture lies in religious performance. Each of the works, I contend, functions as a work of religious theatre: architectural space, images, narrative, illusion and light are used to communicate messages, to engage the senses and the intellect, to activate the memory and the imagination, and to directly involve the spectator both internally and externally as a performer. In my first two chapters I present an analysis of the environment in which Pozzo emerged, beginning with the religious, intellectual and visual culture of the Jesuits, before turning to the religious theatre of Northern Italy. Here I concentrate on the Counter-Reform culture of religious spectacle, before arriving at Pozzo’s first recorded scenographies. In addition to their ritual function, I demonstrate how these works establish many of the recurring visual themes and techniques we see across Pozzo's work. In the third chapter I study Pozzo's earliest surviving major painting commission: the church of San Francesco Saverio at Mondovì. I present the church as a teatro sacro—a permanent ritual scenography of architecture and painting which evokes the elaborate ritual processions of the time. My fourth chapter focuses on the ephemeral scenographic works of Pozzo’s Roman period. Pozzo’s innovations in scenography and perspectival illusionism in Rome quickly establish his reputation and lead to the major commissions in the church of Sant'Ignazio, which I discuss with several major Roman works in my final chapter. The examination of the Roman projects returns us to the central theme of my thesis: art and architecture as theatre; both a setting for religious ritual and a means of persuasion through intellectual and spiritual engagement of the observer in a ritual performance. In order to pursue this line of argument I have consulted a wide array of sources and secondary literature across a number of fields. Important primary sources studied include Pozzo's two-volume treatise, Perspectiva Pictorum et Architectorum (1693,1700), Jesuit documents and archived correspondence, eighteenth-century biographies of Pozzo, prints and commemorative publications of festivals, works of classical authors, and theological writings of major figures in the seventeenth century. This project embraces a wide range of topics including painting, perspective, architecture, illusion, theatre and scenography, ritual and spectacle, theology, philosophy, early modern science, Counter-Reform religious culture, and Jesuit history.