, or Domenico Zampieri,a very much admired artist, was born at Bologna in 1581, and | received his first instruction in the art of painting, from Denis Calvart; but afterwards he became a disciple of the Caracci, and continued in that school for a long time. The great talents of Domenichino did not unfold themselves as early in him, as talents much inferior to his have disclosed themselves in other painters; he was studious, thoughtful, and circumspect; which by some writers, as well as by his companions, was misunderstood, and miscalled dullness. But the intelligent Annibal Caracci, who observed his faculties with more attention, and knew his abilities better, testified of Domenichino, that his apparent slowness of parts at present, would in time produce what would be an honour to the art of painting. He persevered in the study of his art with incredible application and attention, and daily made rapid advances. Some writers contend that his thoughts were judicious from the beginning, and they were afterwards elevated, wanting but little of reaching the sublime; and that whoever will consider the composition, the design, and the expression, in his Adam and Eve, his Communion of St. Jerom, and in that admirable picture of the Death of St. Agnes at Bologna, will readily perceive that they must have been the result of genius, as well as of just reflections; but Mr. De Piles says he is in doubt whether Domenichino had any genius or not. That ingenious writer seems willing to attribute every degree of excellence in Domenichino’s performances, to labour, or fatigue, or good sense, or any thing but genius; yet, says Pilkington, how any artist could (according to his own estimate in the balance of painters) be on an equality with the Caracci, Nicolo Poussin, and Lionardo da Vinci, in composition and design, and superior to them all by several degrees in expression, and also approach near to the sublime, without having a genius, or even without having an extraordinary good one, seems to me not easily reconcileable. If the productions of an artist must always be the best evidence of his having or wanting a genius, the compositions of Domenichino must ever afford sufficient proofs in his favour. The same biographer says, that as to correctness of design, expression of the passions, and also the simplicity and variety, in the airs of his heads, he is allowed to be little inferior to Raphael; yet his attitudes are but moderate, his draperies rather stiff, and his pencil heavy. However, as he advanced in years and experience, he advanced proportionably in, | merit, and the latest of his compositions are his best. There is undoubtedly in the works of this eminent master, what will always claim attention and applause, what will for ever maintain his reputation, and place him among the number of the most excellent in the art of painting. One of the chief excellences of Domenichino consisted in his painting landscapes; and in that style, the beauty arising from the natural and simple elegance of his scenery, his trees, his well- broken grounds, and in particular the character and expression of his figures, gained him as much public admiration as any of his other performances.

The Communion of St. Jerom, and the Adam and Eve, are too well known to need a description; and they are universally allowed to be capital works, especially in the expression. In the Palazzo della Torre, at Naples, there is a picture of Domenichino, representing a dead Christ, on the Knees of the Virgin, attended by Mary Magdalen and others. The composition of this picture is very good, and the design simple and true; the head of the Magdalen is full of expression, the character excellent, and the colouring tolerable; but in other respects, the penciling is dry, and there is more of coldness than of harmony in the tints. But in the church of St. Agnes, at Bologna, is an altar piece which is considered as one of the most accomplished performances of this master, and shews the taste, judgment, and genius of this great artist in a true light. The subject is, the Martyrdom of St. Agnes; and the design is extremely correct, without any thing of manner. The head of the saint hath an expression of grief, mixed with hope, that is wonderfully noble and he hath given her a beautiful character. There are three female figures grouped on the right, which are lovely, with an uncommon elegance in their forms, admirably designed, and with a tone of colour that is beautiful. Their dress, and particularly the attire of their heads, is ingenious and simple; one of this master’s excellences consisting in that part of contrivance: in short, it is finely composed, and unusually well penciled; though the general tone of the colouring partakes a little of the greenish cast, and the shadows are rather too dark, yet that darkness may probably have been occasioned or increased by time. Such is the opinion of Pilkington, but it is time now to attend to that of more authorized criticism. “Expression,” says Mr. Fuseli, " which hud languished after the demise of | RafTaello, seemed to revive in Domenidiino; but his sensibility was not supported by equal comprehension, elevation of mind, or dignity of motive. His sentiments want propriety, he is a mannerist in feeling, and tacks the imagery of Theocritus to the subjects of Homer. A detail of petty, though amiable conceptions is rather calculated to diminish than inforce the energy of a pathetic whole. A lovely child taking refuge in the lip or bosom of a lovely mother, is an idea of nature, and pleasing in a lowly, pastoral, or domestic subject; but perpetually recurring, becomes common-place, and amid the terrors of martyrdom, is a shred sewed to a purple robe. In touching the characteristic circle that surrounds the Ananias of Raffaello, you touch the electric chain, a genuine spark insensibly darts from the last as from the first, penetrates mul subdues. At the martyrdom of St. Agnes, by Domenichino, you saunter amid the adventitious mob of a lane, where the silly chat of neighbour gossips announces a topic as silly, till you find with indignation, that instead of a broken pot, or a petty theft, you are witness to a scene for which heaven opens and angels descend.

"It is, however, but justice to observe that there is a subject in which Domenichino has not unsuccessfully copied, and perhaps even excelled RafTaello. I mean that of the Cure of the demoniac boy, among the series of frescoes painted by him at Grotto Ferrata. That inspired figure is evidently the organ of an internal preternatural agent, darted upward without contortion, and even considered without any connexion with the story, never can be confounded with a mere tumultuary distorted maniac; which is not perhaps the case of the boy in the Transfiguration; the subject, too, being within the range of Domenichino’s powers, a domestic one, the whole of the persons introduced is characteristic. Awe of the saint who operates the miracle, and terror at the redoubled fury of the son at his approach, mark the rustic father: confidence, serene activity, and fervent prayer, the saint and his companion: nor could the agonizing female with the child, as she is the mother, be exchanged to advantage; here she properly occupies that place which the fondling females in the pictures of St. Sebastian, St. Andrew, and St. Agnes, only usurp.

It has been said Domenichino’s invention was inferior to his other parts. The picture of the `Rosario,’ now in | the gallery of the Louvre, is adduced as a proof; an idea neither then nor now understood by the public, disapproved of by his most partial friends, and of which he repented himself; in the most celebrated of his works, the Communion of St. Jerome, he imitated Agostino, and in the almsscene of ‘ St. Cecilia,’ the ‘ St. Rocco’ of Annibale Caracci. But from the Triumph of the ‘Rosary,’ the most brilliant fancy will elicit little more than splendid confusion; in the ‘St. Jerome,’ if the arrangement and the postures are imitated, the characters are invented what he owes to Annibale in the Chanties of St. Cecilia, is less than what Annibale owes to Raffaello in his ‘ Genus unde Latinum;’ and is amply compensated by the original beauties of St. Cecilia before the Praetor. Domenichino was what few men of genius are, a good master. The best of his Roman scholars were Antonio Barbalunza of Messina, and Andrew Camassei of Bevagna. The first copied and imitated his master with sufficient success, and sometimes to a degree of deception. The second, more timid and less select, had nature and a grand style of colour.

Domenichino was made the chief architect of the apostolical palace by pope Gregory XV. for his great skill in that art. He was likewise very well versed in the theory of music, but not successful in the practice. He loved solitude; and it was observed, that, as he went along the streets, he took notice of the actions of private persons he met, and often designed something in his pocket-book. He was of a mild temper and obliging carriage, yet had the misfortune to find enemies in all places wherever he came. At Naples, particularly, he was so ill treated by those of his own profession, that, having agreed among themselves to disparage all his works, they would hardly allow him to be a tolerable master: and they were not content with having frighted him for some time from that city, but afterwards, upon his return thither, never left persecuting him, till by their tricks and vexations they had wearied him out of his life. He died in 1641, not without the suspicion of poison. 1


Argenville, vol. II. Pilkington.