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Chapter 2
Artistic Expression of Jesuit Values

"Bernini was a most effective advocate of the Society of Jesus"
(Art historian, Adolfo Venturi)

Sculpture of Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598-1680);

In the seventh chapter "Grandeur and Obedience", of his book Civilization, Kenneth Clarke relates the spectacular recovery achieved by the Catholic Church just when it seemed to be reeling under the blows of the Reformation. It was most evident in the works of the Catholic artists, a fact which comes as a surprise to our contemporaries, that anyone subject to the authority of Rome could produce great art. He mentions some of the greater artists who were Companions of Jesuits and extremely committed to the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola. Clarke refers to Bernini "As no other artist in history, this greatest image maker of the century has been able to carry through a vast design on a huge scale over a long period resulting in a unity of impression that exists nowhere else in the world." Clarke believed that the great outburst of creative energy such as took place in Rome between 1620 and 1640 could not have been the result of negative forces such as fear of authority. He finds modern observers surprised to discover that the great artists of the time were all sincere, conforming Christians.

Guercino spent much of his mornings in prayer; Bernini frequently went on retreats and practiced the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius; Rubens went to Mass every day before beginning work. This conformity was not based on fear of the Inquisition, but on the perfectly simple belief that the faith which had inspired the great saints of the preceding generation was something by which a man should regulate his life. The mid-sixteenth century was a period of sanctity in the Roman Church . . . such people as St. Ignatius Loyola, the visionary soldier turned psychologist. One does not need to be a practicing Catholic to feel respect for a half-century that could produce these great spirits. Ignatius, Teresa, Filipo Neri and Francis Xavier were all canonized on the same day, 12 March 1622. It was like the baptism of a regenerated Rome. (Clarke, 1969, p. 186)

In St. Peter's basilica: Bernini's Baldacchino, Chair of St. Peter and the Colonnade

Roman visitors are astonished by the number of architectural and sculptural masterpieces attributed to Gianlorenzo Bernini sculptor, architect and painter born in Naples, and buried in S. Maria Maggiore in Rome. Called one of the most universal artistic geniuses of all time, he is responsible for the great Vatican Colonnade in front of St. Peter's with its 284 enormous columns arranged in triple rows, each about nine feet in diameter, the Cattedra and the Baldacchino inside St. Peter's Basilica, the beautiful chapels of S. Andrea al Quirinale and S. Maria della Vittoria Cornaro, many Roman fountains and public sculptures and the baby elephant surmounted by the Egyptian obelisk outside the church of S. Maria sopra Minerva. Rome, where Bernini spent almost his whole life and raised eleven children, is full of his artistic creations. He has received much adulation for his sculptures and buildings, but he also turned his impressive talents to the theater, constructing ingenious stage machinery, carnival floats, public illuminations, fireworks and installations for ceremonies such as the canonization of saints. What could have motivated a person to accomplish all these things?

Bernini had many Jesuit friends and he took his Catholic faith seriously. Once he had made the Spiritual Exercises he committed his life to Ignatian principles and felt missioned to use his enormous talent to highlight the beauties of God's creation, to make tangible the lessons of the Exercises and to help people find God in their lives. Commentators on his life have emphasized how habitually focused he was on the Spiritual Exercises. It was not merely that he prayed daily in the Jesuit church of the Gesù but also that his art reflected the centrality of the Gospel in his life.

Bernini's St. Teresa

Clarke notes a specific example. He demonstrates Bernini's complete grasp of these Spiritual Exercises in his famous sculpture of the great Spanish Carmelite reformer, Teresa of Avila. It is found in the Cornaro Chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome.

Bernini's gift of sympathetic imagination, of entering into the emotions of others - a gift no doubt enhanced by his practice of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius - is used to convey that rarest and most precious of all emotional states, that of religious ecstasy. He describes that supreme moment of her life: how an angel with a flaming golden arrow pierced her heart repeatedly. It was the caressing of soul by God. (Clarke, 1969, p.191)

Howard Hibbard also points out how the Spiritual Exercises, which Bernini always carried with him, affected his sculpture. Comparing a particularly Ignatian form of prayer known as the Application of the Senses Hibbard cites an example used above by Kenneth Clarke, the ecstasy of Teresa of Avila. She described her ecstasy in her famous Life, and relates how her heart was pierced with the flaming arrow of Divine Love. Bernini understood how to interpret Teresa's painful joy. From Teresa's description of the experience Bernini was able to make her vision palpable by employing an Ignatian method of prayer.

The vision is the kind we are enjoined to summon up for contemplation by St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises which Bernini practiced. St. Ignatius urges us to picture each religious event in its setting and to conjure up the image of the holy person in order to converse with it. This desire for visual, even tactile, reality lies behind Teresa's vision and Bernini's representation. (Hibbard, 1974. pp. 137-138]

Gianlorenzo Bernini

In The Power and the Secret of the Jesuits, Fülöp-Miller quotes some of Bernini's earliest biographers, Venturi, Baldinucci and the Chevalier de Chantelou, and each emphasizes the strong influence the Spiritual Exercises had on the life and the works of Bernini to the extent that Venturi, a renowned historian of Italian art, describes Bernini as the "most powerful advocate of the Society of Jesus".

None knew better than he how to impart to the human body an expression that seemed to link it with the supernatural. Bernini never strove after beauty for itself, but appeared to seek it merely as a means of directing the beholder to a world beyond. His characteristic inclination for propagandist effect, often, indeed may be said to be Jesuitical. He it was, too, who, especially in the "Cattedra" of St. Peter's blended architecture, painting and sculpture in such a way as to give a general effect that is downright theatrical. (Fülöp-Miller, 1930, p. 423)

Bernini's personal religious convictions strengthened and deepened daily and his devotions at the Jesuit church became an important daily exercise. He had a keen awareness of death and in spite of his association with the nobility of Europe, he lived a simple life. Rudolf Wittkower in his biography feels that it is impossible to divorce Bernini's views on art from his religious convictions. This unity of his artistic, rational and devotional aspects of his life are evident in the vitality of his creations. He was firmly convinced that he was the tool of God, that his art came to him through the grace of God.

Baciccio of Genoa (d. 1709)

The influence Bernini had on others is narrated by Robert Enggass who examines the influence of Bernini on his protégé, a minor artist named Giovanni-Battista Gaulli (also known as Baciccio of Genoa). Most visitors to the Jesuit church of the Gesù remember his painting Triumph of the Name of Jesus. Robert Enggass claims that its daring and imaginative composition was due to the intervention of Gaulli's teacher.

When Gian Paolo Oliva, General of the Jesuit order, held a competition for the commission to decorate the mother church, it was natural that he should turn for advice to his friend Bernini, and equally to be expected that Bernini would pick his protégé. Perhaps Oliva still had some doubts, for in order to make sure that his friend got the commission, Bernini personally guaranteed that the project would be successful. As a first step in that direction, he lent the services of one of his most important assistants, [Baciccio]. But as the work progressed . . . Bernini was soon called on to honor

his guarantee. The whole technique, blending architecture, painting, and sculpture, reflects a conception in three-dimensional terms which we do not ordinarily expect in a painter. Its origin may be traced to certain large decorative schemes which Bernini conceived. . . . It is fair to say that Baciccio lacked creative originality. This Bernini supplied! (Enggass, 1957, p. 303)

Giovanni Battiesta Gaulli's Adoration of the Name of Jesus in the Gesł

Architecture of Bernini

Bernini decided to present a gift to his Jesuit friends, a chapel for the Jesuit novitiate, the Sant'Andrea al Quirinale which is commented on by the late C. J. McNaspy, S.J.

Sant'Andrea al Quirinale is the most appealing church in Rome. This tiny oval-shaped structure is Bernini's masterpiece. He himself thought so and used to come often to pray. It was a gift to the Society for the training of the young Jesuits. It is a gem of harmony and proportion, all built with consummate elegance. From the main altar the Apostle Andrew gesticulates so that the eyes are swept upward to the light of the dome. Off on the side is the main treasure of this church, the altar of St. Stanislaus Kostka. Novices [who had been trained] there included Stanislaus Kostka, martyrs Robert Southwell, Henry Walpole, Thomas Garnet, Rudolph Aquaviva, Anthony Baldinucci; and Robert Bellarmine died there. (McNaspy, 1986, p. 66)

Interior of Bernini's S. Andrea al Quirinale

In his essay on Baroque Art, Wittkower speaks of Bernini's attachment to the Jesuits and their admiration for him, especially when it concerned his architectural works for the Jesuits.

Gianlorenzo Bernini himself - as well as his biographers and the documents - informs us about his close attachment to the Jesuits. He was on terms of close friendship with the General of the Society, Father John Paul Oliva. He supplied frontispieces for Oliva's published Sermons, discussed religious questions with him, and advised him on artistic matters. His most conspicuous work in the service of the Order was the novitiate church Sant'Andrea al Quirinale (I658-I670), a jewel of unequaled beauty and perfection. It can be shown that the Jesuits of the second half of the seventeenth century had full understanding of its precious quality since documents reveal that, for purely aesthetic reasons, they defended the inviolability of Bernini's church against any attempts at interference. (Wittkower, 1972, p. 11)

Giacomo della Porta (1533-1602)

The Jesuit church of the Gesù in Rome is to the Jesuits what Saint Peter's basilica is to most other Catholics. Ignatius spent his last 12 years working in the rooms adjoining the church which now are a Jesuit shrine. The church was built in anticipation of Ignatius' canonization. During his lifetime Ignatius wanted a church at this location and Michelangelo was willing to build the church for him without charge just for the sake of their friendship. But Ignatius could not afford to buy the property. By the time the Jesuits did acquire the land Ignatius had died and Michelangelo was too old. The job, however, was undertaken by Michelangelo's successor Vignola but completed by Giacomo della Porta who was also responsible for the famous façade. Kenneth Clarke marveled at della Porta's façade and considers it one of the most important buildings of the Western world because it became the model for thousands of other churches.

Della Porta finished Michelangelo's dome

Giacomo della Porta was one of the great architects of the late sixteenth century, and it was he who designed the dome of St. Peter's after Michelangelo's death. Michelangelo's original design was more spherical but was changed considerably by della Porta. This dome is called "the most commanding dome in the world." He was eager to work with the Jesuits in the construction of their

Mother Church, the Gesù. It brought him great honor not only to have designed the most famous dome in the world but also one of the most important façades of the world. Howard Hibbard relates how the job fell to della Porta.

The Jesuits had been first recognized by Pope Paul III (Farnese) and it was owing to the munificence of his nephew Alessandro Cardinal Farnese that they were able to construct the first large church built in Rome after the attack in 1527. If the Jesuits had been richer in 1568 they might have built a different structure. We know they favored a flat wooden ceiling, and other Jesuit churches of the time sometimes had a traditional plan with nave and aisles. The Gesù was the result of a compromise with their rich and powerful patron: Cardinal Farnese's architect, Vignola. He planned and began a church with a broad nave and deep side chapels but the church was completed by his successor Giacomo della Porta. Although he used most of Vignoli's ideas, della Porta simplified and enriched them in the spirit of Michelangelo. In subsequent generations, della Porta's solution was tenacious; it was finished in 1575 and it impressed itself on church façades throughout the world. (Hibbard, 1972, p. 31)

Some consider della Porta's tiny chapel in the rear of the Gesù ,Madonna della Strada (Our Lady of the Way), the most charming chapel in Rome. It is of special interest to Jesuits because of Ignatius' special devotion to this particular representation of the Virgin Mary. For this reason della Porta had given it special consideration and attention and wanted it to be one of the side chapels inside the church of the Gesù.

Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

Peter Paul Rubens was a close friend of the Jesuits, a graduate of their school in Cologne, a dedicated member of their Sodality and anxious to work with them in their apostolic ventures. This optimistic and cultured gentleman was liked by all who met him for his good-natured personality and appreciated his splendid ability to converse about a wide variety of subjects. One of his modern admirers, Erik Larsen, speaks of his many talents in his book Seventeenth Century Flemish Painting.

Many witnesses attest to Rubens' multiple talents. As early as 1607, Scoppius praises 'his perfection in the art of painting' as well as his achievements in the Letters. The great Peiresc, whom Rubens had met in Paris in 1621, wrote about 'his exquisite knowledge of antiquity;' and the Danish doctor Otto Sperling reported in 1621 with amazement that while Rubens was working, he had Tacitus read to him, dictated a letter and simultaneously engaged in a conversation with the Dane and his friends. After his death, he was acclaimed as 'the most accomplished painter in this world.' (Larsen, 1985, p. 90)

Because of his sincerity, his acquaintance with many people, his grand manner, his culture and the charm of his conversation he was a successful diplomat. Philip IV appointed Rubens Secretary of the Privy Council and then charged him with the task of negotiating peace with England. The king gave him six Andalusian horses in appreciation. John Lafarge relates an incident illustrating his wit. When asked by a courtier: "Does His Most ;Catholic Majesty's representative amuse himself with painting?" he responded: "No, the artist sometimes amuses himself with diplomacy."

Peter Paul Rubens and his wife, Helena

The Encyclopedia of World Art credits Rubens with influencing painters as assorted as Jacob Jordaens and Luca Giordano, Feti and Fragonard (the Jesuit), Castiglione and Constable, Van Dyck, and Matthew Smith. Rembrandt was an ardent admirer of Rubens, while in a later century Renoir, second only to him as a painter of flesh, imitated his brushwork and mastery of color. Artists such as Gainsbborough and Cezanne made copies from his paintings. (Jaffe, 1958 12 p. 597)

Larsen relates an anecdote illustrating the close connection between Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck when a group of Ruben's pupils gained access to Ruben's private studio, and in the excitement rubbed out part of a painting that was still wet. Anxious to cover their blunder they designated Van Dyck to repaint the damaged part. When he later found out what had happened, Rubens complimented Van Dyck on how well he performed the task. Because of this episode Van Dyck received instruction from Rubens at an early age, though at an advanced level. After teaching him the rudiments Rubens continued to keep Van Dyck in his entourage. Van Dyck therefore is mentioned as an assistant to Rubens in Rubens' commission with the Jesuits decorating their church of St. Charles Borromeo in Antwerp. In fact the Encyclopedia of World Art reports Van Dyck found that his work there at the Jesuit church was so much esteemed that it was difficult for him to leave Antwerp. (Jaffe, 1958 12 p. 532)

Rubens and the Jesuits

As has been seen, the great artist Bernini was a contemplative Ignatian Companion. In contrast was another great artist who was the opposite and could be seen as an Ignatian Companion who represented the active aspect of the Ignatian spirituality. Rudolf Wittkower speaks of Rubens' connection with the Jesuits in the book Baroque Art: The Jesuit Contribution.

It has been stated that Rubens, a man who was endowed with a rare joie de vivre and had a healthy, dynamic, positivistic approach to life, was not and could not be responsive to contemplative mysticism. Thus, by instinct, one might say, he was attracted to the Jesuits, the activists among Counter Reformation Orders, and he liked working for them. Among his greatest works are the 39 panels for the Antwerp Jesuit church (destroyed by fire in I8I8) and the two enormous altarpieces for the same church, painted before I620, which were saved and are now in Vienna. They depict the miracles of St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier in a most vigorous Baroque style; and it is, of course, these paintings which come to mind when Rubens' relation to the Jesuits is mentioned. Rubens felt himself close to the Jesuits. (Wittkower, 1972, p. 10)

Today in the city of Cologne can be found a Rubens Society for Contemporary Artists in honor of the great artist who studied there. Lafarge tells of the education of Rubens which he received from the Jesuits at Cologne. "The influence of whose humane teaching seems to have persisted during his entire life, and to have helped a nature singularly large and open to all influences." (Lafarge, 1968, p. 133)

Christopher White, in his book Peter Paul Rubens describes in more detail Rubens connection with the Jesuits and enumerates his collaborative works with the Society, in particular, his extensive work as a member of the Jesuit Sodality.

In Italy Rubens had been employed by the order both to paint altarpieces and to illustrate the biography of their founder, Ignatius of Loyola, and back home [in Antwerp] his contacts continued in a variety of ways. Apart from the illustrations he prepared for Fr. d'Aguilon, he collaborated in a number of pictures with the Jesuit painter Fr. Daniel Seghers. He painted an altarpiece of the Annunciation (Vienna) for the chapel of the Jesuit Sodality in Antwerp very shortly after its foundation in I609. He also became a member of the Jesuit Sodality, and through his association would have been kept closely in touch with the Society's progress. His major work for the order was in connection with their new church in Antwerp, in the decoration of which the artist was to play a major role. (White, 1987, p. 114)


Rubens' Annunciation illustrating d'Aguilon's theory of color

White also relates an unusual story of Rubens' campaign to have Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier canonized which is one of the most singular events in the thousand-year-old history of the canonization process (which began with St. Ulrich in 993). The display of Rubens' beautiful picture of these two saints for the church of the Gesù in Rome took place during the pre-canonization procedures. It was important to Rubens that these two Jesuits be canonized.

The two pictures [of St Ignatius and St Francis Xavier which were finished by I6I7] were designed to be displayed alternately on the high altar. What is highly unusual about these two works is that the two men who are the subjects of the pictures were canonized in I622, only a year after the consecration of the church, and at the time of the commission for the altarpieces only Ignatius had been beatified. The pictures were therefore intended as propaganda on behalf of their subjects who were portrayed as Jesuit heroes performing the miracles (Rubens himself refers to them as 'exploits') which would serve to promote their cause for canonization. It was unprecedented to represent them on pictures destined for the high altar in anticipation of their eventual canonization.

Both altarpieces combine miracles performed at different times in different places. Set in a church resembling St Peter's in Rome, where in I538 Ignatius had sought papal permission for founding the order, [Ignatius is] accompanied by nine other Jesuits, including Francis Xavier on his right. Arranged below are a number of people who were either saved or cured by Ignatius. (White, 1987, pp. 110, 148)

Rubens and d'Aguilon

Cooperation between the artist and a Jesuit scientist is evident in a book written by the Jesuit geometer, François d'Aguilon, and illustrated by Rubens. Both had much to learn from each other. Some authors were privileged to have their books illustrated by Rubens but his involvement in the content was usually limited to the design of the title page, with merely symbolic connection with the text itself. A special case though, was the author d'Aguilon who needed illustrations for his six books on optics, Opticorum Libri Sex. D'Aguilon's biographer, August Ziggelaar, claimed this to be the only time Rubens painted vignettes which were specific illustrations of the text, rather than pictures somewhat tangential to the subject matter. In undertaking this task, Rubens showed his enthusiasm for his Jesuit friend d'Aguilon and for his project. He provided beautiful illustrations for d'Aguilon's discoveries and experiments in optics. He did them in his leisure and donated them without charge. Today these six original illustrations are found in the Plantim-Moretus Museum in Antwerp. White comments on Rubens close connection with d'Aguilon text.

From various references he makes in the text, it is clear that the author was fully aware of the relevance of painting to the theories he was propounding. [Rubens] echoes d'Aguilon's proposition that the closer the shadow is to an opaque body, the darker it is and it appears to be even darker than the thing itself. (White, 1987, p. 146)

Ruben's Frontispiece for d'Aguilon

August Ziggelaar provides further evidence of collaboration between Rubens and the Jesuit author. The frontispiece of the whole collection Opticorum Libri Sex is full of symbols of light. A lady is seated between a peacock and an eagle holding an armillary sphere; Mercury and Minerva stand by, Mercury holding in his hand an Argus' head full of eyes, Minerva a shield reflecting the head of Medusa. Below them are two animals, resembling dogs, one lies on its back, under a new moon, while the other one stands on its hind legs looking at a waning moon; between them are a few measuring instruments. The dogs illustrate what d'Aguilon mentions in the Preface to the reader, that cynocephali, legendary animals, are blind during the dark of the moon and greet the new moon with their front legs extended upwards. The scepter, the peacock and the Argus-head refer clearly to the organ of vision, the eye; the eagle, in Latin aquila, may hint at the name of the author, Aguilonius in Latin.

Parkhurst has shown how much Rubens' painting Juno and Argus is in agreement with d'Aguilon's theory of color and he concludes "Rubens' picture and d'Aguilon's text are important documents for the history of both science and art". (Ziggelaar, 1983, pp. 55, 72)

D'Aguilon explains his experiments while Rubens literally draws the instruments. All six pictures of Rubens illustrate d'Aguilon's experimental approach to optics and present apparatus especially designed for the subject. The fruit of their collaboration is evident as each of the six books of d'Aguilon's 684-page folio Opticorum Libri Sex, [Six Books Concerning Optics] is introduced by a Ruben's engraving. The engravings are impressive for the image of the concentrating scientist contrasts with the rambunctious activities of the cherubs; they have served as a model for later science book illustrators. These three examples of the six frontispieces drawn by Rubens demonstrates how seriously Rubens took his collaboration with his Jesuit friend d'Aguilon.

In the fourth book Rubens shows three cherubs demonstrating the diopter ;which is explained in great detail by d'Aguilon. It is the now familiar experiment in which an object between the point of fixation and the eyes appears in different positions when different eyes are closed.

In the fifth book Rubens illustrates a new experimental tool which d'Aguilon used and was the first to describe: the photometer. Rubens ;provides in d'Aguilon's physics book the first picture anyone ever had of a photometer. Also the equal light sources provide the first known standard candles.

In d'Aguilon's sixth book Rubens illustrates stereographic projection ;with two cherubs studying angles in the shadows originating from a light source as Atlas crouches on the ground. Rubens has succeeded in presenting a clever portrayal of a complicated mathematical and physical concept.

In his book on physics Ziggelaar has an interesting question regarding how d'Aguilon decided on one experiment rather than another. He concludes that the artist was bringing more to the physics book than merely illustrations, and that d'Aguilon got some of his ideas from the artist.

At the end of our study of d'Aguilon's Opticorum Libri Sex, we realize that we have a strange combination of traditionalism and faulty opinions mixed with brilliant new insights. In those days books on perspective were written to help painters project pictures of a scene geometrically correct on their canvas. . . . Would it be unreasonable to see here two personalities at work in cooperation: François d'Aguilon and Peter Paul Rubens? The spirit of Archimedes and the aspirations of Rubens? (Ziggelaar, 1983, pp. 79, 102)

Two paintings of Andrea Pozzo, S.J. (1642-1709)
The cure of the possessed man by Ignatius (1688) and
Ignatius welcoming Francis Borgia into the Society (1699)

Chapel of Luigi Gonzaga from Perspectiva Pictura by Andrea Pozzo, S.J. 1700

Other Artists Who Were Companions of Jesuits

The consideration of other great non-Jesuit artists illustrates the extent to which the Jesuits and the principles of the Spiritual Exercises captured their minds and influenced them. Wittkower considers the influence on Bartolomeo Ammannati, Pietro da Cortona and Borromini.

Bartolomeo Ammannati ;was born in 1511, when Raphael and Michelangelo were painting in the Vatican, and died in I592. In 1572 he began to spend much of his energy designing and building the Jesuit College and Church in Florence, and in 1681, Ammannati and his wife willed all their earthly possessions to the Florentine Jesuit College. Ammannati declared to Claudio Aquaviva, the Jesuit Superior General, his readiness to rebuild the church at his own expense. In I590 Ammannati's design of the façade of the College reached Aquaviva who found the façade overdone, stating: "Although I entirely submit to your wise judgment, it would seem to me more in conformity with the modesty of our Society if the balustrade were left out and the emblem of Christ were less ostentatious." Later, however, Aquaviva yielded and Ammannati finished the work according to his own design.

In Baroque Art: The Jesuit Contribution, August Wittkower comments on another aspect of the Jesuit - Ammannati relationship and also on the collaboration between two other artists, Pietro da Cortona (d. 1669) and Francesco Borromini (1599-1667).

The great Baroque painter and architect, Pietro da Cortona, had some Jesuit commissions. In 1652 Cortona published a Treatise on Painting and Sculpture in collaboration with the Jesuit Father Gian Donlenico Ottonelli. I doubt that Cortona would have cooperated if he had not been in sympathy with many of the Jesuit's ideas. The book reflects some traditional ideas along with new ones. Thus next to the traditional ideals of propriety and decorum, the concept of Art as pure form makes its entry, and the contours of the hedonistic principle of delight as the purpose of painting can be discerned. We may assume that the Jesuit, though still tied to the traditional ideas of propriety, was able to reach out for the new horizons embedded in Cortona's art. If any conclusion may be drawn from this cooperation of Jesuit and painter it is that the Jesuits were no less prepared to be guided than to guide.

Despite Borromini's hypersensitive, moody nature, which brought him into conflict with most of his patrons, his relations to the Jesuits seem to have remained excellent to the end. This can be deduced from the fact that in his will Borromini left the rather large sum of 500 scudi to the church of the Gesu.

(Wittkower, 1972, pp. 9-12)

The Jesuits exerted a spiritual influence on these great artists in different ways and in different degrees. Although these great masters were involved with and indebted to the Jesuits, the Jesuits had no intentions of exercising deliberate influence on the art of their artist friends. On the contrary it was the artists who influenced the Jesuits and the seventeenth century Jesuits moved away from a spirit of austerity toward a more relaxed attitude.

This is evident in the fact that the Jesuits abandoned their former principles of artistic simplicity and decorative bareness and surrendered to the full-blooded Baroque of Bernini, Borromini and the Jesuit Brother Andrea Pozzo. This meant abandoning a Jesuit attachment to plainness and austerity; an attitude of "art for edification but not for admiration".

Perspective Geometry, Art & Ignatian Companions

Mechanical arts were greatly enhanced by perspective drawing, which furnished intelligible diagrams for assembling the engines of the scientific revolution, thereby encouraging practical inventions. Moreover for the first time, perspective drawing filled illustrated scientific textbooks for brilliant young minds such as Tyco Brahe, Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo, and William Harvey, who later became the founders of modern science.

In a recent book, The Heritage of Giotto's Geometry , concerning the influence perspective geometry has made on Western Civilization, Samuel Y. Edgerton relates the cooperation between Jesuits and artists to produce impressive collections of inspirational art. Edgerton asks the question: "Why were some of the most spectacular achievements of both the Western artistic and scientific revolutions conceived in the very same place, the Tuscan city of Florence? He then argues convincingly that it was no coincidence but rather the result of a European, and particularly, a Florentine regard for perspective drawing and chiaroscuro which enhanced artistic as well as mechanical drawings. The Europeans had made rapid advances in perspective geometry that enabled three-dimensional shapes to be displayed in two dimensions. Edgerton's grasp of complicated church history, geometry, optics and art enables him to tell an interesting story of the impact of linear perspective geometry on art, technology and science.

Perspective art also provided a wonderful opportunity for making Gospel stories come alive by using the universal language of pictures enhanced by these new conventions of the geometry of perspective. The early Jesuits began an ambitious program of printing devotional books with realistic perspective pictures of Gospel stories like the Nativity to assist in the contemplations of the life of Christ in Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises.

The Nativity scene is from one of the most remarkable Counterreformation publications of the late sixteenth century, Evangelicae historiae imagines "Images of Scriptural History," printed for the Society of Jesus in Antwerp by Martinus Nutius (successor to Christophe Plantin) in 1593. Ignatius Loyola himself had initiated this tome shortly before he died in 1556, when he urged his close lieutenant, the Spanish Fr. Hieronymus Nadal, to furnish novices with an illustrated guide to meditation.

What made Nadal's illustrated devotional manual unique was its absolute dependence on images for meditational inspiration . . . just as St. Ignatius urged as the necessary prelude to devotion in his Spiritual Exercises. Nadal's pictures would recapitulate the life of Christ with scientific objectivity.


The Nativity from Jesuit Nadal's Evangelicae (1593); contrasted with a copy of the same scene from the Jesuit missionaries in China

Nadal believed that because of Renaissance advances in science and printmaking technology, the sacred idea of his images would now appeal with greater realism and clarity to a larger audience than any religious art before, propaganda fide ("spreading the faith") by means of the most universal of all languages, that of pictures, enhanced now by the easy-to-read conventions of the modern machine diagram. The famous late sixteenth century Jesuit mission to China under the brilliant Father Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) carried along Nadal's Imagines as a treasured field manual, an indispensable aid for proselytizing among the pagans. Ricci praised it thus: "This book is of even greater use than the Bible in the sense that while we are in the middle of talking [to potential converts] we can also place right in front of their eyes things that with words alone we would not be able to make clear." (Edgerton, 1991, pp. 254-259)

Another reason for the advancement of technology in Europe was the desire of those who understood science to tell everyone of God's universe. Chinese scientists did not share this zeal of the educated European Christians who considered themselves the trustees of nature's secrets. Also books on technology became quite popular because they were easy to read. They explained nature's laws and provided pictures of the recently invented machinery.


Ackerman, James S. "The Gesu" in Wittkower & Jaffe (Ed.), Baroque Art. New York: Fordham Press, 1972

Clarke, Kenneth Civilization. New York: Harper & Row, 1969

Edgerton, Samuel Y. The Heritage of Giotto's Geometry. Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1991

Enggaas, Robert Bernini, Gaulli and the frescoes of the Gesu. Art Bulletin, 1957, 39, 303

Fülöp-Miller, René The Power and the Secret of the Jesuits. New York: Viking, 1930

Haskell, Francis "The role of the patrons" in Baroque Art: The Jesuit Contribution. New York: Fordham Press, 1972

Hibbard, Howard Bernini. England: Penguin Books, 1965

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