Italian Baroque painting in Kaunas 0

Marius Vyšniauskas, 2015-08-14

In brief: Kaunas Church of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Pažaislis ensemble with the decoration of its frescoes and stucco brings our city closer to distant Italy. This sanctuary was famous for its modernity throughout the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The article gives an overview of the artistic value of the sanctuary.

The church stands out from other sacred buildings with its architectural hexagonal plan and a unique concave facade of the church, first used in Europe of the seventeenth century. To this day, the complex is considered one of the best East European Baroque masterpieces.


According to sources, the chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Kristupas Zigmantas Pacas (1621–1684) had spent many years, studying in Italy and he became fascinated by Italian Baroque architecture. The Italian form of Kaunas church is best felt in Rome, where two churches in the center of the city identically repeat its facade - it is St. Agnes church in the Navova square and Trinità dei Monti at the Spanish square.

Pažaislis Monastery from the very beginning has been dedicated to the Virgin Mary, therefore her subject can be seen in almost all the details of the ensemble. Mary's monogram is encrypted in the layout of the churchyard paths (from the gate of the saints to the church portal and from the doors of the northern and southern wings of the guest house to the gallery gates of the northern and southern blocks of the monastery) - the rudiment of the theme.


It is known that the chancellor’s of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania idea was implemented by architect Giovanni Battista Frediani and from 1674 architects and brothers Pietro Puttini (1633–1699) and Carlo Puttini (1644–1682) took over. And Michelangelo Palloni (1642–1712), a Florentine painter, painted the frescoes in Pažaislis.

As mentioned before, Pažaislis church wall painting is attributed to one master, whom, according to the archives, K. Z. Pacas chose very carefully. One of the main conditions was for the artist to work alone instead of leading a huge squad of apprentices. It is therefore likely that Palloni worked alone or with one, maybe two assistants.


In terms of Pažaislis church interior, it is inappropriate to forget stucco molding, which caused a number of problems for the restorers of the 19th century. All stucco molding is attributed to Giovanni Maria Merli (1631–1707). Square, round or oval molded frames contain frescoes and the remaining areas of the vaults are filled with floral motifs, volutes, shells, angel figures or fantastic masks.

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