Pietro da Cortona (Cortona 1597 – Rome 1669)
The Triumph of Divine Providence and the Fulfilment of its Purposes under Pope Urban VIII
Fresco, ceiling of the Salone di Pietro da Cortona
The fresco was painted by Pietro da Cortona and pupils between 1632 and 1639. The immense composition celebrates the spiritual and political power of the Barberini family through a myriad of characters – over one hundred of them – set in an open space, dilated to infinity beyond the limits imposed by the architecture. The only measure which can anchor the eye is the great rectangular cornice painted illusionistically to resemble marble, dividing the vault into 5 compartments. Divine Providence is seated at the center, enthroned on clouds, holding the royal scepter and commanding Fame to crown the coat of arms of the Barberini family. In each of the side panels, opposing principles are depicted, such as vices and virtues, good and evil: Minerva fells the giants; Theology and Religion ward off lechery and debauchery; Hercules drives off the avid Harpies; and Good Government banishes war and ensures peace.
With its whirling vitality, frenetic rhythm and scenographic spatial illusionism, the fresco is one of the earliest and most accomplished examples of Baroque painting.