Jacopo Vignali The Archangel Michael
The Archangel Michael
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Jacopo Vignali ( Pratovecchio 1592 - Florence 1664 )

Jacopo Vignali was an Italian painter. At an early age he entered the studio of Matteo Rosselli in Florence, and his first works, Virgin and Saints (1616; Florence, S Brigida, Santuario della Madonna del Sasso) and the ceiling painting Love of the Fatherland (1616; Florence, Casa Buonarroti), were influenced by Rosselli and Ludovico Cigoli. In 1616 he enrolled at the Accademia del Disegno in Florence, becoming an academician in 1622. In the 1620s he moved away from Rosselli’s influence and developed a style distinguished by dramatic light effects, rich colour and painterly technique and by the expression of deep emotion. The decade opened with the Investiture of St Benedict (1620; Florence, Semin. Maggiore), one of a series of works painted in honour of St Benedict for the Confraternità di S Benedetto Bianco, to which Vignali had belonged since 1614. Having learnt the technique of fresco painting from Rosselli, he also began to work in that medium and was involved in the decoration of the Casa Buonarroti throughout the decade, the ceiling fresco Jacob’s Dream dating from 1621. In 1622–3 he also contributed to important fresco cycles for the Medici at the Casino Mediceo di San Marco in Florence, and at the Villa del Poggio Imperiale just outside the city.

Of Vignali’s easel paintings of the 1620s, St Cecilia (early 1620s; Dublin, National Gallery) reveals the influence of Orazio Gentileschi, while the figures in the lyrical genre scene May Day Offering (Rome, Palazzo Corsini) are indebted to the elegant groups found in the work of Jacques Callot and Filippo Napoletano. Vignali’s interest in dramatic light effects culminated in Christ Showing his Wounds to St Bernard (1623; Florence, SS Simone e Giuda) and St Peter Caring for St Agatha (Florence, Depositi Gallery), both close to the art of Rutilio Manetti. After visiting Rome in 1625, in the late 1620s he became influenced by the austere art of Domenico Passignano and Francesco Curradi, as shown by the deeply emotional Agony in the Garden (1626; Castellina, S Lucia). This was followed by the more richly coloured Circumcision (1627; San Casciano, Chiesa della Misericordia) and the altarpiece, the Mystical Communion of the Blessed Clara (1629; Florence, S Spirito), inspired by Giovanni Lanfranco’s treatment of saintly ecstasy.

The early 1630s were a particularly productive period for Vignali, and several works, such as the Virgin and Saints (1631; Badia di Ripoli, Abbazia), may be associated with the plagues of 1630–33. In 1632 he decorated the Bonsi Chapel in SS Michele e Gaetano, Florence, where he painted the ceiling frescoes. In 1636 Cardinal Carlo de’ Medici commissioned a cabinet painting on a chivalrous theme, Ruggiero Found by Leone and Melissa (Florence, Pitti), and in the early 1640s the Arazzeria Medicea commissioned cartoons (untraced) for the four tapestries (Florence, Palazzo Medici–Riccardi) of the Seasons. The new monumentality of the latter works is also evident in two lateral canvases, St Mary Magdalene and St Margaret (Florence, SS Annunziata, Accolti Chapel), and in the Liberation of Souls from Purgatory (1642; Florence, SS Michele e Gaetano), where the painterly freedom of Guercino is united with the soft sfumato and blue background of Francesco Furini. A similar monumentality also characterizes paintings of this period for private patrons, such as David and Abigail (Camigliano, Villa Torrigiani Colonna).

Later in the 1640s an increasingly dark and meditative tone distinguishes Vignali’s works, as in the Death of St Anthony Abbot (Montughi, rectory of S Martino). His mature masterpiece is the Martyrdom of St Lucy (1649; Florence, SS Annunziata), which reveals the influence of Salvator Rosa and Felice Ficherelli. Towards the end of his life his work declined, although the late Virgin with SS Anthony of Padua and St Liborius (Florence, S Jacopo Sopr’Arno) retains distinction. His most famous pupil was Carlo Dolci, who was deeply affected by the intense religiosity of such works as the Agony in the Garden.