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Pozzo [Puteus], Andrealocked

(b Trento, Nov 30, 1642; d Vienna, Aug 31, 1709).
  • Richard Bösel

Italian painter, architect and stage designer. He was a brilliant quadratura painter, whose most celebrated works, such as the decoration of the church of S Ignazio in Rome, unite painting, architecture and sculpture in effects of overwhelming illusionism and are among the high-points of Baroque church art. He was a Jesuit lay brother and produced his most significant work for the Society of Jesus. This affiliation was fundamental to his conception of art and to his heightened awareness of the artist’s role as instrumental in proclaiming the faith and stimulating religious fervour. The methods he used were those of Counter-Reformation rhetoric, as represented in Ignatius Loyola’s Spirited Exercises (1548). His architectural works are eclectic, and his unconventional combination of varied sources led to bold experiments with both space and structure. His ideas were spread by his highly successful two-volume treatise, Perspectiva pictorum et architectorum (1693–1700).

1. Training and early works, to 1680.

He received his first artistic training in Trento, with a painter who appears to have worked in the studio of Palma Giovane. He then studied with an unidentifiable pupil of, among others, Andrea Sacchi, who would have been the first to instruct Pozzo in the art of the Roman High Baroque, and he followed this painter to Como and Milan. In Milan Pozzo joined the Society of Jesus on 25 December 1665, and he remained a Jesuit lay brother all his life. In 1668, after a three-year noviciate in Genoa, he became attached to the Casa Professa of S Fedele in Milan. There he gained wide acclaim for his festival decorations. He furthered his artistic development by study tours to Genoa and Venice. A number of oil paintings date from this period, among them the Preaching of St Francis Xavier (1672; Novi Ligure, Collegiata) and the Investiture of St Francesco Borgia (c. 1672; San Remo, S Stefano). In these early works his figure style, characterized by a sculptural sense of form and dramatic gesture, is indebted to Lombard painting. This influence remained important throughout his career, especially in the intense colour and dramatic chiaroscuro of his oil paintings.

In 1676 Pozzo was called to Mondovi to decorate the interior of the recently completed church of S Francesco Saverio. He painted a cycle of frescoes celebrating the church’s titular saint and designed a high altar with a painted trompe-l’oeil architecture screen, intended to harmonize with the colours of the paintings. The divisions of the vault precluded a single ceiling composition, but he nonetheless achieved a convincingly unified space, combining real and illusionistic architecture, setting and figures in a manner that remained fundamental to all his later art. The sources of his style at Mondovi lie in the Genoese tradition of decorative fresco painting and in the art of Morazzone. In 1678 Pozzo went to Turin, to paint the interior of the Jesuit church, SS Martiri (destr.; fragments survive).

2. Rome, 1681–1702.

(i) S Ignazio, Il Gesù and oil paintings.

In 1681 the General of the Order, Padre Giovanni Paolo Oliva, advised by Carlo Maratti, summoned Pozzo to Rome. His first recorded works in Rome were decorations for the quarantore performances staged in the church of Il Gesù in 1682: dramatic biblical pageants for which the church became both stage and auditorium and for which Pozzo created festive architecture that blended with the real architecture of the church. His reputation as a virtuoso stage designer and painter of perspectives became further established with the creation of many more decorations for festivals and teatra sacra, some of which have been preserved in engravings in his later written works. These creations generally follow two basic types: either actual structures in the form of ciboria or perspectival stage backdrops with a central viewpoint, constructed along parallels that give an illusion of deep recession and creates a marvellous sequence of columned halls and open spaces. This stage architecture reflects the style of the preceding generation of Roman architects, such as Carlo Rainaldi and Francesco Borromini. However, the freedom of invention led at times to the creation of completely new types of ground-plan. The first frescoes (1681–6) of the Roman period were for the corridor of the Camere di S Ignazio in the Casa Professa of the Gesù. Pozzo here attempted to overcome structural irregularities with trompe-l’oeil architecture, but owing to pre-existing single paintings by Jacques Courtois, called ‘il Borgognone’, he had to accept (and to accentuate) different viewpoints and to use the most daring effects of perspective: the result is a tour de force of illusionism in which the deception and its disclosure are complementary parts of the artistic concept.

Andrea Pozzo: Glory of St Ignatius Loyola and the Missionary Work of the Jesuit Order (1688–94), fresco, nave vault, S Ignazio, Rome; photo credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY

In 1684 Pozzo began working on the completion of the church of S Ignazio, Rome. The first task was to find an aesthetically satisfying solution to the problem of the dome of the crossing, which had been left unfinished by Orazio Grassi. Pozzo painted a false perspective of a dome with lantern on a tambour of canvas (18 m in diam.), to be set into the drum of the originally painted dome. Harmonizing with this, he painted frescoes on the nave vault representing the Glory of St Ignatius Loyola and the Missionary Work of the Jesuit Order (1688–94). Following the tradition of early Baroque quadratura, the composition depends on illusionistic architecture. Yet Pozzo also drew on the most recent achievements of Roman fresco painting: the virtuoso grouping of figures in deep space and flickering patterns of light and shade that had been developed by Pietro da Cortona and Giovanni Battista Gaulli. In uniting such sources, Pozzo created a fresco that surpasses all earlier works in its dynamic effect and power of persuasion. The feigned architecture, painted in perspective, continues the real architecture of the church and the steep foreshortening creates an illusion of deep recession; at the same time the actual structure of the building appears to have become part of the heavenly sphere, and the building itself functions as part of the heavenly vision. The illusion is composed around a central focal-point and can be appreciated from only one spot. Pozzo also directed the architectural decoration of the choir (1685–98) and frescoed scenes from the Life of St Ignatius (1685–8; 1697–1701). In 1694 he published an explanation of the frescoes, addressed to Anton Florian, Prince of Liechtenstein, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I’s ambassador to Rome.

In 1695 Pozzo was given one of the most prestigious commissions of the period: the creation of the altar for the tomb of Ignatius Loyola in the left transept of the Gesù. His design was the result of a long-drawn-out competition, in which 12 of his designs contended against those by Sebastiano Cipriani (fl 1696–1733) and Giovanni Battista Origone. An exceptionally large number of sculptors and craftsmen worked on this project, which was supervised by the Jesuit brother Carlo Mauro Bonacina with Pozzo as artistic director. The result was one of the most sumptuous and complex works of altar architecture of the Italian Baroque. The architectural setting of the large wall altar, gently convex, an aedicula with columns and broken pediment, was kept relatively plain but was built from precious materials (e.g. rare marbles, lapis lazuli, precious metals) and embellished with rich sculptural ornament that extended to the surrounding chapel walls. In the centre is a niche for sculpture, which can, alternatively, be covered over with an oil painting by Pozzo. The splendid materials and brilliant technique overwhelm the viewer and are intended to arouse wonder and admiration. Yet, the orchestration of the whole remains clear and decisive; the rich colours of varied materials are handled with extraordinary subtlety, and the ornamentation, to the most minute detail, is of the highest artistic order.

In 1697–9 Pozzo directed a similar team of artists on the creation of the altar of S Luigi Gonzaga in S Ignazio, Rome, where the marble relief of the apotheosis of the saint is by Pierre Legros (ii). Meanwhile he continued to produce oil paintings, mainly for Jesuit churches, which reveal, in their more academic draughtsmanship and lighter palette, a response to the art of Cortona and Maratti. In 1681 Cosimo III de’ Medici commissioned a Self-portrait (1685; Florence, Uffizi) for the ducal collection of artists’ self-portraits. Among Pozzo’s other paintings are the Martyrdom of Saints before the Governor of Antioch (1683–6; Ascoli Piceno, S Venanzio) and St Francis Xavier Baptising Queen Neachile (1690; Sansepolcro, S Francesco Saverio). The dates for his important cycle of frescoes in the church of Il Gesù, Frascati, showing St Ignatius Loyola, St Sebastian and several scenes from the Life of Christ, remain uncertain; most authorities favour c. 1681–4, yet Baldinucci dated them c. 1700, which would seem to fit with the fact that reconstruction of the church began in 1696.

(ii) Architecture and writings.

Pozzo does not appear to have designed independent architectural projects before 1690. A scheme for a chiesa rotonda published in the second volume of Perspectiva pictorum, showing a pilgrimage church with sculpturally modelled dome and lantern, triumphal-arch type narthex, exterior ambulatories and wide exterior flight of steps, can be seen as a preliminary design for S Maria alle Fornaci, Rome, and must therefore date from before 1694, the year in which construction of that church began. A design for a collegiate building, also known only from the treatise, is thought to be purely theoretical; a hexagonal domed church, with three symmetrical apses, is enclosed by three wings of a building which together form a triangle.

Pozzo drew on a wide variety of sources, and his plans for the façades of S Giovanni in Laterano (1699; Perspectiva, ii, pls 83 to 87, especially 83) reveal the inspiration of Borromini’s remodelling of the interior of the basilica. Less demanding is a design for the Roman church of S Apollinare, preserved in the archives of the Collegium Germanicum, Rome, which is based on 16th-century north Italian models: Pellegrino Tibaldi’s S Fedele in Milan and Alessio Tramello’s S Sepolcro in Piacenza. This project was not realized but the concept reappeared in S Francesco Saverio (1700–02), Pozzo’s Jesuit church at Trento. From 1701 to 1702 he was involved in the planning of the Jesuit church of Montepulciano, but the plan, which was reminiscent of the chiesa rotonda, was only partly completed.

In this intensely productive period, Pozzo organized painting and architecture courses at the Collegio Romano and worked on his treatise, Perspectiva pictorum et architectorum. Dedicated to Emperor Leopold I, this was published in a Latin–Italian edition, and was almost immediately translated into the most important European languages, and even into Chinese. The work was intended as a didactic introduction to perspectival architectural notation and includes, together with the basics of representational geometry, instructions for perspectival painting and for constructing stage designs. With its 118 engraved illustrations it was, at the same time, conceived as a type of pattern book: Pozzo usually chose examples of his own work as demonstration models for his lectures, especially those with a more ephemeral purpose or those that remained unrealized and so could in this way be made available to posterity and inspire emulation. The brief explanatory texts illuminate the artistic intentions of the author and his art-historical position, especially when he passionately defended his extravagantly original creations against the criticisms of his contemporaries.

3. Vienna, 1703–9.

In 1703 Pozzo, on the recommendation of Prince Anton Florian of Liechtenstein, was summoned to Vienna, where until 1709 he was involved in renovating the Jesuit church. Here, by the use of illusionistic ceiling paintings, which included a trompe l’oeil dome over the centre of the church, he transformed the simple barrel-vaulted rectangular hall with side chapels into a domed longitudinal centralized space. The frescoes were restored in the 19th century by Peter Krafft. The richly articulated spires of the exterior are based on Pozzo’s design. Following this he decorated the Marmorsaal of the Liechtenstein garden palace (1704–9). Here he made the ceiling of the almost square room seem to open into a bright sky with clouds, inhabited by several groups of Olympian Gods. The Labours of Hercules are shown around the base of the vault in quadri riportati at the lower edge of the trompe-l’oeil architectural frame. In the context of Austrian Baroque this is a very important work, although it does not match the rhetorical power of Pozzo’s religious frescoes.

Apart from several smaller projects, in which he was assisted by members of his large workshop, he created a complex composition combining real and illusionistic elements for the high altar of the Franciscan church in Vienna. The baldacchino recalls the trompe-l’oeil architectural screen of the high altar at Mondovi. After completing his works in Vienna, Pozzo intended to return to Italy to undertake, in particular, the plans for the reconstruction of the Jesuit church in Venice, but he died in Vienna, where he was buried with great honours in the Jesuit church. In Italy and in Vienna his art found a number of followers, some of them very productive, among whom were Antonio Colli (fl c. 1690–1725), active in central Italy, Giuseppe Barberi SJ (1645–1733), active in Modena, Johann Hiebel, active in Bohemia, Kasper Bażanka, active in Poland, Christoph Tausch SJ, who was active as an architect and fresco painter in Austria and Silesia, and Giuseppe Castiglione SJ (1688–1766), who worked in China and claimed himself a pupil of Pozzo.


  • Copia d’una lettera scritta da Andrea Pozzo … ed Excellentiss. Principe Antonio Floriano di Liechtenstein … circa alli significativi della volta da lui dipinta nel Tempio di Sant’Ignazio in Roma (Rome, 1694)


  • L. Pascoli: Vite de’ pittori, scultori ed architetti moderni, 2 (Rome, 1736), pp. 245–76
  • F. Milizia: Le vite de’ più celebri architetti d’ogni nazione e d’ogni tempo precedute da un saggio sopra l’architettura (Rome, 1768), pp. 384–5
  • E. Benvenuti: ‘La vita del Padre Pozzo scritta da Francesco Baldinucci’, Atti della Imperiale regia accademia di scienze, lettere ed arti degli Agiati in Rovero, ser. 3, 18/2 (1912), pp. 207–37
  • R. Marini: Andrea Pozzo pittore, 1642–1709 (Trento, 1959)
  • N. Carboneri: Andrea Pozzo architetto, 1642–1709 (Trento, 1961)
  • W. Schöne: ‘Zur Bedeutung der Schrägansicht für die Deckenmalerei des Barock’, Festschrift für Kurt Badt, ed. M. Gosebruch (Berlin, 1961), pp. 144–72
  • L. Montalto: ‘La storia della finta cupola di S Ignazio’, Capitolium, 37 (1962), pp. 123–8
  • P. Vignau-Wilberg: Andrea Pozzos Deckenfresko in S Ignazio (Munich, 1970)
  • B. Kerber: Andrea Pozzo (Berlin and New York, 1971) [excellent bibliog.]
  • H. Schadt: ‘Kleine Forschungsbeiträge. Andrea Pozzos Langhausfresko in S Ignazio, Rom. Zur Thementradition der barocken Heiligenglorie’, Das Münster, 24/2–3 (1971), pp. 153–60
  • B. Kerber: ‘Ein Kirchenprojekt des Andrea Pozzo als Vorstufe für Weltenburg?’, Architectura, 1 (1972), pp. 34–47
  • J. Pryor: Parallel Structures in Brother Pozzo’s Triumph of St Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius (diss., Detroit, MI, Wayne State U., 1972)
  • M. Russo: Andrea Pozzo a Montepulciano (Montepulciano, 1979)
  • M. Fagiolo: ‘Strutture del trionfo gesuitico: Baciccio e Pozzo’, Storia dell’arte, 38–40 (1980), pp. 353–60
  • V. De Feo: ‘L’architettura immaginata di Andrea Pozzo gesuita’, Rassegna di architettura e urbanistica, 46 (1980), pp. 79–109
  • A. Blunt: ‘Two Architectural Drawings by Andrea Pozzo’, Master Drawings, 20 (1982), pp. 22–4
  • R. Bösel: Jesuitenarchitektur in Italien, 1540–1773: i. Die Baudenkmäler der römischen und der neapolitanischen Ordensprovinz (Vienna, 1985)
  • R. Bösel and R. Holzschuh-Hofer: ‘Von der Planung der jesuitischen Gesamtanlage zum Kirchenumbau Andrea Pozzos’, Das Alte Universitätsviertel in Wien, 1385–1985 (Vienna, 1985), pp. 103–11
  • M. Gargano: ‘Andrea Pozzo e l’altare di S Ignazio al Gesù di Roma: L’architettura tra scenografia effimera e monumento perenne’, Athanasius Kircher e il Museo del Collegio Romano tra Wunderkammer e museo scientifico: Rome, 1985, pp. 210–16
  • U. Knall-Brskovsky: ‘Andrea Pozzos Ausstattung der Jesuitenkirche in Wien’, Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte [prev. pubd as Jb. Kstgesch.; Jb. Ksthist. Inst.; Kstgesch. Jb. Ksr.-Kön. Zent.-Komm. Erforsch. & Erhaltung Kst. & Hist. Dkml.], 40 (1987), pp. 159–73
  • E. Levy: ‘“A Noble Medley and Concert of Materials and Artifice”: Jesuit Church Interiors in Rome, 1567–1700’, Saint, Site and Sacred Strategy: Ignatius, Rome and Jesuit Urbanism (exh. cat., ed. T. M. Lucas SJ, Rome, Vatican, Bib. Apostolica, 1990), pp. 46–61
  • Andrea Pozzo e il suo tempo. Atti del convegno internazionale: Trento, 26–27 Nov 1992
  • V. De. Feo and V. Martinelli, eds: Andrea Pozzo (1642–1709) (Milan, in preparation)
U. Thieme and F. Becker, eds: Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, 37 vols (Leipzig, 1907–50) [see also Meissner above]