Never Before Seen in America: The Holy Name—Art of the Gesù: Bernini and His Age comes to Fairfield, Feb. 2

Never Before Seen in America: The Holy Name—Art of the Gesù: Bernini and His Age comes to Fairfield, Feb. 2

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Italian, 1598-1680) Bust of Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino, Church of the Gesù, Rome.

The Fairfield University Art Museum presents a major international loan exhibition featuring artistic masterpieces from the glorious church of the Gesù in Rome, one of the city’s most celebrated architectural monuments.

“If I were still Director of the Metropolitan, I would be jealous of Fairfield doing this show. It’s simply incredible.

— — Philippe de Montebello, director emeritus of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Fairfield University Art Museum is presenting a major international loan exhibition, The Holy Name—Art of the Gesù: Bernini and his Age , which will be on view in the museum’s Bellarmine Hall Galleries from February 2 through May 19, 2018 . Its focus is the Church of the Gesù (Chiesa del Santissimo Nome di Gesù all'Argentina) in Rome, the principal or mother church of the Society of Jesus, which was founded by Ignatius of Loyola in 1540 in the charged religious and political climate of the Counter-Reformation.

The Gesù is a testament to the power and prestige of the new religious order, its edifice a formidable symbol of the militant Church reborn. The long and at times fraught campaign to erect the church and embellish its interior, the imperative to formulate an imagery celebrating the order and its newly canonized saints, the competing visions of the Jesuits and their strong-willed patrons, and the creative energies of the artists who realized the vastly ambitious project are all explored in the exhibit.

Situated in the heart of the city in the shadow of the ancient Forum, the Gesù is one of the most glorious architectural monuments of Rome. Its resplendent interior is famous for the grand illusionistic fresco of the Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus (IHS) by Giovanni Battista Gaulli (il Baciccio) in the vault—a soaring vision of an expansive, light filled heaven populated by the blessed from which expelled demons tumble forth. Gaulli was the disciple of the great Barqoue impresario Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was associated with the Gesù and the Jesuits for much of his life.

Organized by Linda Wolk-Simon, PhD, Frank and Clara Meditz director and chief curator of the Fairfield University Art Museum, to commemorate Fairfield University’s 75th anniversary, the exhibition features artistic treasures from the Gesù itself, never before seen in America, including Bernini’s bust of Roberto Bellarmino (patron saint of Fairfield University); Gaulli’s monumental painted wood model of the apse; a gilt bronze altar sculpture by the versatile painter, draftsman, and sculptor Ciro Ferri; the sumptuous 3-piece jeweled cartegloria from the altar of St. Ignatius; and the magnificent embroidered chasuble of the church’s great benefactor, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. These masterpieces will be joined by more than 50 paintings, sculptures, rare books, precious objects, drawings, prints, and historical documents by Bernini, Domenichino, Gaulli, Ciro Ferri, Carlo Maratti, and Andrea Pozzo, among other Italian Baroque masters, generously lent by museums and private collections around the country including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the Art Institute of Chicago, the Princeton University Art Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery. Together, these masterpieces tell the fascinating and intertwined stories of the church’s early history and splendid interior embellishment, as well as the foundational chapters of the Society of Jesus.

Distinguished scholars serving on the exhibition planning committee are Christopher M. S. Johns and Norman L. and Roselea J. Goldberg, professors of art history at Vanderbilt University; Franco Mormando, professor of Italian and chairperson for Boston College's Department of Romance Languages and Literatures; John O’Malley, S. J., Department of Theology professor at Georgetown University; Louise Rice, New York University associate professor of art history; and Xavier F. Salomon, Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, The Frick Collection, New York. Philippe de Montebello, Director Emeritus of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is honorary chair of the exhibition committee.


An international scholarly symposium generously funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation will take place at Fairfield University on April 6, 2017, with a keynote address delivered by John O’Malley, S. J. the previous evening. For the full program and registration information, see the museum website: Other exhibition-related programs and education initiatives include a public lecture series generously supported by the Robert Lehman Foundation.

Art of the Gesù: Bernini and his Age
Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Professor and Bader Chair in Southern Baroque Art, Queen’s University, Ontario
Thursday, February 1
5 p.m., Dolan School of Business Dining Room

Inside the 17th-century Gesù: Jesuit History, Saints, Theology, and Science
Evonne Levy, Professor of Renaissance and Baroque Art, University of Toronto
Tuesday, March 6
5 p.m., Diffley Board Room, Bellarmine Hall

The Jesuits and the Arts: How and Why It Happened
John O’Malley, S. J., University Professor, Department of Theology, Georgetown University
Thursday, April 5
5 p.m., Dolan School of Business Dining Room

Musical Performance: Sacred Music in the Age of Bernini
7:30 p.m., Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Bernini’s Rome: The Eternal Feast
Charles Scribner, Art Historian and Author
Tuesday, May 1
5 p.m., Diffley Board Room, Bellarmine Hall

Guided tours of the exhibition will also be offered for members of the public, school groups, college and university students. Private group tours are also available.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum is offering a subscription lecture series with Fiona Garland: Going for Baroque—Art in Rome in the Age of Bernini and Caravaggio , Tuesdays April 24, May 1, and May 8 at 10 a.m. in Bellarmine Hall, Museum Classroom.

Finally, Fairfield University has filmed film the “sound and light” spectacle enacted daily at 5 p.m. in the Gesù, which will be screened in the museum classroom throughout the run of the exhibition. As the lights in the nave dim, a monumental altarpiece by Andrea Pozzo is dramatically lowered to reveal a colossal silver sculpture of St Ignatius in Ecstasy designed by Pierre Le Gros, accompanied by music by an 18th-century Jesuit missionary, Domenico Zipoli, and readings from the Bible and the writings of St. Ignatius.

Generous support for the exhibition, publication, and related programs has been provided by the Center for Catholic Studies, Fairfield University, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the Robert Lehman Foundation, the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation, Vanderbilt University, the Dianne Modestini Charitable Trust, The Private Art Dealers Association (PADA), Charles Scribner, Christie’s and a number of private foundations and anonymous benefactors.

For more information, visit .


Tags:  Alumni Stories

Last modified: 01-19-18 08:45 AM


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