The martyrdom of Paolo Michi, Giovanni Goto, and Giacomo Ghisai.

CESARI, Giuseppe (1630].)


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Folio (445 x 340 mm), with engraved inscription below image; minimally trimmed at foot (just touching text); very lightly browned and a few spots; minute wormtrack restored below image; a good impression; the paper with fleur-de-lys watermark. Rome, Valérien Regnart, n.d. [ca

A very rare large single sheet engraving depicting the crucifixion of three Japanese converts. Following the command in 1588 for all Jesuits to leave Japan, Christian persecution was renewed in 1593, with a number of Japanese receiving the crown of martyrdom.  In February 1597, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (‘Emperor Taicosama’) had twenty-six Christians executed at Nagasaki as an example to Japanese who wanted to convert to Christianity.  Known as the ‘Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan’, they included five European Franciscan Missionaries, one Mexican missionary, three Japanese Jesuits (Paolo Michi, a noble, and eminent preacher, and the recent converts, Giovanni Ghoto, and Giacomo Ghisai), and seventeen Japanese laymen.   ‘As soon as all the crosses were planted, the executioners lifted up their lances, and at a signal given, all pierced the martyrs almost in the same instant; upon which they expired and went to receive the reward for their sufferings.  Their blood and garments were procured by Christians, and miracles were wrought by them’ (Alban Butler, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints p. 201).   ‘In the late 16th century, the Baroque style was starting to emerge.  This period is characterized by open compositions with elements, often times placed diagonally, that encourage the illusion of movement.  A loose and free technique was consistently used among artists.  Artists also tried to create a sense of unity among the different elements or figures … Also during this time the Counter Reformation was influencing the subject matter and its representations in art.  It encouraged a renewal in the interest in martyrs.  In the depiction of these martyrs, the Catholic Church encouraged the images to be visually and emotionally appealing so as to encourage piety and faith in heretics as well as to inspire present worshipers.  With these representations of horrifying scenes of martyrdom, the Church wanted to reach the largest audience possible in order to regain Catholic worshipers.  As a result, this time period is marked by the patronage of the Catholic Church and Catholic nobility in Rome’ (Shedding Light on Caravaggio, online).   Giuseppe Cesari (1568 – 1640) was an Italian Mannerist painter, also named ‘Il Giuseppino’ and called Cavaliere d’Arpino, because he was created Cavaliere di Cristo by Pope Clement VIII.  He was much patronized in Rome by both Clement and Sixtus V.  He was the chief of the studio in which Caravaggio trained upon the younger painter’s arrival in Rome.   ‘[Cesari] began his career as a workshop assistant for the decoration of the Vatican Loggia, directed by Niccolo Circignani.  The artists he encountered during this experience (Circignani himself, Cristoforo Roncalli, and Giovanni Battista Ricci) had a great influence in his work.  In 1589–91 Arpino executed extensive decorations in the Certosa of San Martino, Naples, where, as at Rome, he was assisted by his brother Bernadino.  He was greatly in demand in Rome as a fresco painter, having impressed Pope Clement VIII with his facility of execution.  But his frescoes in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, begun in 1596, were never finished.  Perhaps his best work is the four incidents from the life of St. John the Baptist in the Church of San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome.  During his long career, he also created the designs for the mosaics of the cupola of St. Peter’s; the frescoes of the Cappella Paolina of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore; and the fine murals in the Olgiati chapel in the Church of Santa Prassede’ (Encyclopedia Britannica).   His most notable pupil was Caravaggio, who worked at Cesari’s studio as a painter of flowers and fruit in c. 1593-94.  Caravaggio’s sublimely beautiful ‘Basket of Fruit’, painted around 1599, is now at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan.   Signed ‘Eques Ioseph Arpinas Inc[isit]’, this ‘idealized’ vision of the scene was published by the Flemish printmaker, publisher and printer, Valérien Regnart, who was active in Rome from 1626 until his death in 1650.  The image is dedicated in print by Regnart to Mutio Vitelleschi (1563-1645), sixth Superior General of the Society of Jesus. 

Stock Code: 217809

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