Giuseppe Tiburtio Vergelli (Italian, active ca. 1690)
Canonisation of Five Saints in Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome on October 16th, 1690
43 x 69.1 cm
The Metropolitan Museum, New York
His reign was a brief one October 6, 1689-February 1, 1691
The main religious event of the brief pontificate of Alexander VIII occurred when five saints were canonised on 16th October 1690
It was an important event.
After the closing of the Council of Trent, only two saints were canonised in the remainder of the sixteenth century
In the seventeenth century, there were only 24 canonisations of which this event created more than 20% of that total
The saints raised that day to the altars were:
Saint Lorenzo Giustiniani, Patriarch of Venice;Saint Giovanni of Capistrano, the Franciscan monk who distinguished himself in the victory of the Hungarians against the Turks;Saint John of God, founder of the Hospital Order;St. Pasquale Baylon, the so-called Mad Saint and founder of the "Fatebenefratelli;" andSaint Giovanni da San Facondo.
The Pope`s nephew Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni commisioned his tomb and it was designed by Count Arrigo di San Martino.
But it was the Genovese sculptor Angelo de' Rossi (1671 – June 12, 1715) who executed the famous bas relief at the base of the tomb which commemorates the great canonisations that day in 1690 (below)
Angelo de' Rossi (1671 – June 12, 1715)
The Canonisation of Five Saints by Pope Alexander VIII on 16th October 1690
1702 - 1704
St Peter`s Basilica, Vatican City
For a drawing of the bas relief by Pompeo Litta:
Drawing of the Bas relief on the Tomb of Alexander VIII
From Famiglie celebri italiane (Milan 1819)
For those who wish to know more about the celebrated tomb please see
Edward J. Olszewski, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740) and the Vatican Tomb of Pope Alexander VIII (American Philosophical Society, November 15, 2004)
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It is thought that the man with a wig may be a self-portrait of De Rossi himself
Louis XIV had a gypsum model of the bas relief placed in the French Academy as an example for the students.
It is considered to be de Rossi`s masterpiece. With the outward curve of the relief and the subtlety of the sculpture, the figures seem to move and emerge out of the marble
The man standing before the Pope presenting the acolyte with the gifts is the late Pope`s great nephew, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni.
The Pope favoured him and other members of his family. At the canonistaion, Ottoboni aged 23 years at the time was the Promoter of the Faith. Despite at the time being a lay man but cardinal, Ottoboni was appointed Vice-Chancellor of the Church by his Pontiff relative. He held this post until his death, a period of over 50 years
Ottoboni was also the one responsible for the tomb
Ottoboni was a great art patron and collector.
On his death his collection included more than 500 art works
In Francis Haskell, Patrons and painters, London 1963, Haskell called Ottoboni «the most adventurous patron of the time» and his Palazzo alla Cancelleria «the centre of the most enlightened and extravagant patronage in Rome»
In the then liturgy of canonisation, the scene represents the presentation of gifts: bread, wine, doves, candles
There are five gift bearers consistent with the five candidates for canonisation
Other members of the Ottoboni family are depicted, including Cardinal Giovanni Rubini, the son of the Pope`s sister who was Papal Secretary of State
As a Venetian from a Venetian noble family, the Pope was canonising the first Venetian patriarch, Lorenzo Giustiniani (1381 – January 8, 1456)