The Domenichino Affair

Novelty, Imitation, and Theft in Seventeenth-century Rome
Cropper, Elizabeth
Date published: 
October 2005

Ten years after completing his work The Last Communion of Saint Jerome, Bolognese painter Domenichino was accused by his rival Giovanni Lanfranco of stealing the idea for the painting from an altarpiece crafted by Lanfranco’s teacher, Agostino Carracci. The resulting scandal reverberated through the centuries, drawing responses by artists and critics from Poussin and Malvasia to Fuseli and Delacroix.

Why was Domenichino attacked in this way when other related paintings - including Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin and Perugino’s painting of the same subject - aroused no such negative response? In this fast-paced book, Elizabeth Cropper investigates the Domenichino affair and addresses the perennial debate regarding the precise nature of originality and of imitation. She offers close readings of the paintings involved in the story, detailed analysis of attitudes toward imitation, emulation and plagiarism, and a fascinating discussion of what Domenichino’s plight signifies in art history.