The vault of the nave of the Chiesa del Gesù, mother church of the Jesuits, boasts a stunning fresco by Giovanni Battista Gaulli (1639-1709), an artist from Genoa, better known as Baciccio or Baccicia (Genoese nicknames for Giovanni Battista).
The official name of the church is the Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Gesù and Gaulli's fresco of The Triumph of the Name of Jesus (1678-9) illustrates the passage from St Paul's Epistle to the Philippians (2:10-11): 'that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow...and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.'
The name of Jesus is represented by the letters IHS (the middle letter surmounted by a cross), a christogram, which denotes the first three letters of Jesus' name in Greek: ΙΗΣΟΥΣ.
On August 21st, 1672, Gian Paolo Oliva, the Father-General of the Jesuit Order, signed a contract with Giovanni Battista Gaulli commissioning him to fresco the dome, the pendentives and the nave and transept vaults of the church.
The nine large frescoes constitute the greatest achievement of the artist's career and his chief claim to fame. The cloud-borne Vision of Heaven (1672-1675) in the huge dome is badly damaged, but the frescoes on the pendentives (1675-1676) have survived in almost perfect condition.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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