Raffaello Vanni

(Sienne, 1595 - Sienne, 1673)

Directed towards painting by his father Francesco, Raffaello Vanni learned much from an academic sojourn in Rome (1610-1618) – first with the school of Guido Reni and then with Antonio Carracci – that allowed him to absorb fundamental stimuli for the development of his original style.

A subsequent sojourn in Venice (1618-1623) was vital for the lightening of his palette and taking his distance from the influence of Caravaggio.

His first signed and dated work, Job derided by his Wife, dates from 1622 and was painted for the Oratory of San Rocco in Siena, showing Vanni’s adherence to the Carracci style and Venetian colour. His Sienese works of the 1610s and 1620s, including the frescoes in San Sebastiano in Vallepiatta (1627), and the canvases for San Vigilio (circa 1636), reflect the inspiration of Bolognese and Roman classical culture, especially in the depiction of sentiment in the principal figures. At the end of the 1620s Vanni’s output shows how clearly he had assimilated the classicism of Andrea Sacchi and of Giovanni Francesco Romanelli of Viterbo.

The inevitable impact of Pietro da Cortona’s painting in Rome led Vanni to an increasingly monumental style in the 1650s, with richly-conceived compositions and toned-down colours. Clovis’ Victory over Alaric (1652), painted on the inner facade of the Oratory of the Santissima Trinità in Siena, is the epitome of Vanni’s contact with the new style of Cortona.

These were the years in which Vanni saw his star ascend among the most important Roman families. Beginning in1653 he was supported by the Sienese cardinal Fabio Chigi, and after the churchman’s election to the papal throne as Alexander VII in 1656, he received until his protector’s death in 1667 important contracts to work in the two churches which were the most prestigious in Rome at this time, Santa Maria del Popolo and Santa Maria della Pace. In the meanwhile he was elected principe of the Accademia di San Luca.

Among his most significant late works were The Death of Saint Thomas of Villanova (1665), painted for the collegiate church in Ariccia, and a replica of the same subject for the church of Sant’Agostino in Siena.

He ended his brilliant artistic career in his native Siena, where his fame was unquestioned.