Corrado Giaquinto's The Holy Spirit, painted in the 1750s exists as a study for a larger decorative piece for a church ceiling in Madrid and would almost certainly have been shown to the patron as an early indicator of the final work. As the larger piece has never been found, this prototype painting exists as a tantalising hint of what might have been a Rococo masterpiece. Giaquinto, an Italian Rococo painter, was renowned for his decorative reproductions of Biblical themes, and was the foremost fresco artist in Italy during the mid-eighteenth century, alongside the great Tiepolo. Without doubt a masterpiece of religious painting, The Holy Spirit demonstrates Giaquinto's handle on the Rococo style that had spread from its origins in France in 1699 after King Louis XIV demanded more youthful and energetic art to be produced under his dominion. In response, artists versed in the Baroque style moved away from symmetry and towards more organic, fluid designs which mimicked the foliage of nature.
The Holy Spirit expresses the archetypal discussion prevalent in Europe during the mid-eighteenth century – the balance between color and underdrawing, and the use of detail as ornamentation. Moving firmly away from the austerity of the Wars of the Religions and the Reformation, many artists embraced the dramatic flourishes of the decorative Rococo style. In many ways Rococo was a reproduction in paint of the excesses and decadence that would lead to the French Revolution – the light-hearted flair and the jovial decorative features all combined to produce an art that basked in its own majesty. Yet, Giaquinto's The Holy Spirit elegantly fuses the style with his usual style of religious painting to create a joyous union of heaven and earth.
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