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Guercino, Saint Gregory the Great with Jesuit Saints

Key facts
Full title Saint Gregory the Great with Saints Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier
Artist Guercino
Artist dates 1591 - 1666
Date made about 1625-6
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 296 × 211 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the Trustees of Sir Denis Mahon's Charitable Trust through the Art Fund, 2013
Inventory number NG6622
Location Room 32
Collection Main Collection
Saint Gregory the Great with Jesuit Saints

This altarpiece commemorates one of the most important events of the papacy of Pope Gregory XV (born Alessandro Ludovisi). It shows the Jesuits Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier being canonised (officially declared saints in the Roman Catholic Church). This occurred on 12 March 1622, the feast day of Saint Gregory the Great.

Regarded as one of the Doctors, or Fathers, of the Western Church, Gregory the Great was pope from 590 to 604. Here he is seated on an elevated throne between Saint Ignatius Loyola, Spanish founder of the Society of Jesus (or Jesuits), on the left and Saint Francis Xavier, the first great Jesuit missionary, on the right.

The painting was likely commissioned by the Ludovisi family after Gregory XV’s death in 1623 to honour his close connections with the Jesuit order. The Ludovisi were one of Bologna’s most distinguished families and early patrons of Guercino.

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