Sketches by Domenico Corvi

The Baptist before Herod
Tempera on paper
Domenico Corvi
cm. 17 x 24


The Beheading of the Baptist

The scene takes place inside a large building where the figures seem to be lost beside the gigantic columns. This sketch was done by Corvi “by the light of the night” the composition is illuminated by a torch that builds a dramatic effect of the scene of a group of persons. Kneeling in the center is a man with his neck held by the figure on the right. The effect is theatrical yet static. This preparatory sketch for the fresco of the contra façade of the Gonfalone church is the same size as that of the Baptist in front of Herod. It is framed in profiles that repeat the architecture in which the fresco would be inserted.


The Baptist before Herod by D. Corvi

This preparatory sketch is the same size as the Beheading of the Baptist done for the Gonfalone church. The scene shows Herod enthroned above a group in semi circle and John the Baptist (San Giovanni) making an accusatory movement towards him with his right arm. The action inside the imposing building includes a dramatic effect of lighting of the group of armed men at the extreme right.
The figurative exegesis of the sketch, according to Stella Rudolph (1982) noticed the ascendency of Corrado Giaquinto, Gregorio Guglielmi and Luigi Vanvitelli all of whom Corvi knew from the only work in Viterbo in the Gonfalone church. The scene shows how Piranesi’s vision of classic antiquity found a good observer in Corvi. Infact in 1756 the Viterbese artist studied a series of engravings by Piranesi from which he used the monochrome to make his sketch.


DOMENICO CORVI (Viterbo 1721 – Rome 1803)

Domenico Corvi, Viterbese painter who in the 18th century held the first place in Roman figurative culture. In 1756 the artist was called to fresco, along with his colleages V. Strigelli and A. Falaschi, the Gonfalone oratory which remains one of the most important testimonies of his pictorial activity. In the same year he entered the Accademia of San Luca where he worked under Francesco Mancini. The apprenticeship with one of the top Roman artists was not an easy professional beginning. He began in Rome in 1758 with a series of canvases commissioned by Cardinale Domenico Amedeo Orsini and with an altar piece showing San Michele Archangel for the Trinità dei Monti church.


– I. FALDI, I Pittori Viterbesi, Roma 1970, pp. 354-355.
– G. TIZIANI, Tre bozzetti del Corvi, nel catalogo della mostra “Domenico Corvi”, a cura di V. CURVI- – A. LO BIANCO, Roma 1998, p. 90.
– G. TIZIANI, La fortuna di Domenico Corvi. Alcuni inediti, in “Informazioni”, 6, 1989, pp. 67-78.
– N. ANGELI, Chiesa del Gonfalone di Viterbo. Storia e arte, vol.I°, Viterbo 1973.
– S. RUDOLPH, Primato di Domenico Corvi nella Roma del secondo settecento, in “Labyrinthos”, I, 1-2, 1982, pp. 9-10.

Condividi :