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College of Arts and Sciences

Annie McEwen

boston college fine arts department

Annie McEwen in Rome

An art historian’s job is to look closely, to analyze, and to place herself in the historical circumstances of the artist with the aim of discovering the motivations and challenges that contribute to creating a masterpiece. For me, all of these skills came together last summer when I had the opportunity to study Giovanni Battista Gaulli’s monumental fresco, The Triumph of the Name of Jesus (1676-79), and his other paintings in the Church of the Gesù in Rome, thanks to my Advanced Study Grant. I started my study in Dusseldorf, Germany where Gaulli’s preliminary drawings for his fresco paintings in the Gesù are housed. I conducted a close visual analysis of his style. These sketches provide a glimpse into the artist’s mind and record his initial thoughts in their freest form. First-hand knowledge of these drawings was a tremendous help when I arrived in Rome to study Gaulli’s paintings at the Gesù and other sites in the city. In Rome, I was fortunate to meet with Professors Nancy Netzer and Stephanie Leone of the Fine Arts Department to receive their advice and support. The skills I have learned in their and other art history classes throughout my undergraduate studies, from the close analysis of works of art and documents to the importance of placing art into a broader context, were indispensible in my quest to understand Gaulli’s creative process. After completing my research in Rome, I incorporated my findings into my research papers for Professor Claude Cernuschi’s senior art history seminar and Professor Leone’s class on Bernini in the Baroque. These classes have created a space for my work to develop and flourish. I have concluded that previous scholarship on Gaulli has not fully explored his great versatility as an artist because of his close connection with the charismatic and overpowering Gian Lorenzo Bernini.