Monday, November 21, 2011

Saint Cecilia

After Niccolò Circignani called "Il Pomarancio" (c. 1517/1524 - after 1596)
Print made by Monogrammist MP (16th C. late - 17th C. early; fl)
Church martyrs, with in the foreground St Cecilia standing in a cauldron of boiling water
After the fresco executed in San Stefano Rotondo by Niccolò Circignani
268 millimetres x 171 millimetres
The British Museum, London

Nicola Circignani's cycle of the early Christian martyrs (1582) in the ambulatory of the Jesuit church of San Stefano Rotondo was one of the most celebrated of the numerous martyrdom cycles in Rome during the last twenty years of the sixteenth century. It consisted of thirty-one frescoes each depicting a scene of horrendous martyrdom within the early Church

The cycles were part of the Catholic response to the Protestant martyrologies such as John Foxe's Acts and Monuments

One of the main themes of the Pontificate of Gregory XIII (1572-1585) was an Early Christian revival which took shape in Rome. Early Christendom was referred to as a Golden Age in the history of the Church

The church of San Stefano Rotondo had first been given to the Hungarian College in 1573 by Gregory

The Church was an Early Christian construction dating back to the fifth century

Circignani`s figures in the foreground are life sized and situated at eye level.

There are legible inscriptions below and above the panels. The inscription at the top is a quotation from one of the Psalms or other verse from the Bible. The lower inscription explains the scene and giving the name of the emperor who ordered the execution

The composition of the cycle is the work of the Jesuit Father Michele di Loreto, the then rector of the German-Hungarian College. Gregory refounded and reformed the German-Hungarian College in 1573 and took a very close interest in the internal decoration of the Church of San Stefano Rotondo at this time

Circignani was one of the major artists patronised and commissioned by the Pope in his programme for the remodelling of Rome. One of the major works which he carried out for Gregory was in the famous Loggia dei venti in the Vatican (now recently restored)

The cycle is a means of meditation and a visual Litany of the Saints and Martyrs

In the cycle, the figure of St Cecilia was one of the major scenes in the cycle.

She died about AD 230 with her husband Valerian, his brother Tiburtius, and a Roman soldier Maximus. She was already a popular Roman saint.

But it was only in 1594 that she was officially made the Patron Saint of Music - again by decree of Gregory XIII, a patronage which give a boost to her cult