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Saint Cecilia Giving Alms to the Poor

Pietro da Cortonaabout 1635–1640

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

A monumental Saint Cecilia instructs assistants to distribute alms to a crowd. Although Cecilia is the darkest and most worked figure, she does not dominate; she is balanced by the tumultuous crowd.

Pietro da Cortona's figures display classical seriousness of action and sculptural weightiness. In his energetic style, the forceful line and vehement pentimenti in the figure of Saint Cecilia almost cause the line to burn through the paper. The drawing epitomizes the exuberant High Baroque style that Cortona helped to found as an architect and painter in Rome, combining operatic bravura with classical forms and motifs. He synthesized Rome's architectural history for the setting, borrowing from the Pantheon and Saint Peter's basilica.

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