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The picture was painted for the Ludovisi family in Rome. Alessandro Ludovisi had been elected pope in 1621 with the name Gregory XV. During his papacy Saint Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, and Saint Francis Xavier, one of the order's greatest missionaries, were canonised.

The picture was painted shortly after Pope Gregory's death (1623) and was probably intended for the new Jesuit church of S. Ignazio in Rome.

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