Cortona / Sacchi controversy

(c. 1630)
   The term refers to a series of theoretical debates that took place in the Accademia di San Luca, Rome, regarding the proper representation of histories. A group, led by Andrea Sacchi, declared that history paintings should be composed according to the Aristotelian rules of tragedy, with a minimal number of actors and emphasis on grandeur and clarity. A second group, led by Pietro da Cortona, believed instead that histories should follow the precepts of epic poetry, with a multitude of figures, settings, and subplots, all held together by a common theme. Sacchi and Cortona truly practiced what they preached. In comparing the former's Divine Wisdom (1629-1633) to the latter's Glorification of the Reign of Pope Urban VIII (1633-1639) both frescoed ceilings in the Palazzo Barberini, Rome, it becomes clear that Sacchi did in fact limit the number of protagonists, rendering them with great precision. Cortona, on the other hand, allowed multiple characters to weave in and out of the fictive architecture, granting the work a spontaneity and vibrancy lacking in Sacchi's work.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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