Skip to content

Baglione, Giovanni

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Baglione, Giovanni

    Other Names:

    • "il sordo del barozzo"

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1566

    Date Died: 1643

    Place Born: Rome, Lazio, Italy

    Place Died: Rome, Lazio, Italy

    Home Country/ies: Italy

    Subject Area(s): Baroque, biography (general genre), Italian (culture or style), and Roman (ancient Italian culture or period)


    Painter and first historian of the Roman Baroque through two early art histories, a biography of artists, Vite de’ pittori, scultori, architetti (1642), and a survey of Roman churches, Le nove chiese di Roma (1639). Baglione described himself as having descended a noble family from Perugia. In his autobiography appended to his Lives of the Artists, Le vite, 1642, Baglione claimed as well that he studied art under the painter Francesco Morelli in Rome. He worked as a painter, employing a Caravaggesque style, and received numerous commissions. By 1600 Baglione was an Accademia di S Luca member. He brought a libel suit against Caravaggio in 1603 for some verses supposedly written by him against Baglione. Within that context Orazio Gentileschi, a plaintiff in the suit, admitted Baglione a “first-class painter.” Baglione was knighted in 1606. Between 1621 and 1622 he traveled to Mantua. In the 1630s, he began compiling notes for his two art-historical works. Baglione published his first, Le nove chiese di Roma, a discussion on the contemporary paintings and sculpture in nine major Roman churches, with some references to ancient and medieval works, in 1639. This alone might have secured him the sobriquet “First historian of the Roman Baroque” (Pace), because Le nove chiese is more than a devotional guidebook for pilgrims, the genre of the period. His more important work, Le vite de’ pittori, scultori & architetti, a biography of artists, appeared in 1642 in Rome, containing biographies of more than 200 artists who worked in Rome between 1572 and 1642. A second edition with an expanded section on the achievements of Pope Urban VIII was issued, also in Rome, in 1649. Subsequent editions were issued from Naples in 1733, 1739 and 1743. Le nove chiese di Roma was, in the words of Roberto Longhi, the “first strictly artistic guide of the churches of Rome.” It’s importance today is the snapshot it gives of Roman churches which were all significantly altered. Baglione’s “guide” avoids religious discussion and hagiography and focuses on the art and artists of the churches. Le vite de’ pittori, scultori & architetti became an important primary source for 17th-century art in Rome. A broad-minded critic who avoided overly theoretical discussions of many art biographies–unlike other biographers of the period–he used his knowledge as a practicing artist to evaluate, often singularly, the important stylistic transformations occurring at the time of his writing. He limited the discussion of paintings to those viewable by the public (with few exceptions) for readers to better appreciate his own criticism. He praised Caravaggio, despite his legal disputes. His commentary included architecture and sculpture. Baglione’s anecdotes on artist’s lives–a necessary feature on biographies, then as now–also provide insights on the realities of commissions and the conditions for artistic success in the 17th century. In his own time Giovanni Pietro Bellori used Baglione’s Vite for his book Le vite de’ pittori, scultori et architetti moderni of 1672, though Bellori was jealous of Baglione’s authority accused him of having the work ghostwritten by the antiquarian Ottavio Tronsarelli (d. 1646). Others using Baglione included Carlo Cesare Malvasia for his biographies published beginning in 1678, Giovanni Battista Passeri for his work of 1678 and in Spain, Acisclo Antonio Palomino de Castro y Velasco in his Museo pictórico y escala óptica, 1715-1724. His work became an important source for modern art historians studying his age, including Luigi Antonio Lanzi, Girolamo Cluento Nettunio Baruffaldi, Hermann Voss, Jacob Hess and Anthony Blunt. The importance of his work is testified by the fact that a separate index to it appeared in 1924 (Rome), a facsimile edition in 1935 (also Rome), and Hess’ commentary in 1995.

    Selected Bibliography

    Le nove chiese di Roma nelle quali si contengono le historie, pitture, scolture, & architetture di esse. Rome: A. Fei, 1639; Le vite de’ pittori, scultori, et architetti dal Pontificato di Gregorio XIII del 1572: in fino a’tempi di Papa Urbano Ottauo nel 1642. Rome: Nella stamperia d’Andrea Fei, 1642, [facsimile edition with marginal notes by Bellori:], ed. Mariani, Valerio. Rome: Stampato in calco-offset dallo Stab. arti grafiche E. Calzone, 1935.


    Longhi, Roberto. “Giovanni Baglione.” Me pinxit e quesiti caravaggeschi, 1928-1934. Florence: Sansoni, 1968, pp. 145-153 [especially 149-153]; Pace, Claire. Félibien’s Life of Poussin. London: A. Zwemmer, 1981, p. 16; O’Neil, Maryvelma Smith. “First Historian of the Roman Baroque.” chapter 5 of Giovanni Baglione: Artistic Reputation in Baroque Rome. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002, pp. 177-196.


    "Baglione, Giovanni." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: