La Predica della Battista: An Epideictic Image Open Access

McEwen, Annie (2017)

Permanent URL:


This thesis is an examination of Bernini's frontispiece La Predica della Battista, which was created for the Jesuit Gian Paolo Oliva's 1664 published collection of sermons Prediche dette nel Palazzo Apostolico. In this paper I evaluate how Bernini's frontispiece relates to the rhetorical environment within which both Bernini and Oliva produced their works. I begin by analyzing Oliva's apostolic sermons as examples of epideictic oratory, a form of oratory that was intended to persuade the audience towards moral integrity through the use of vivid imagery and extended metaphor. I argue that Bernini designed his frontispiece with this rhetorical context in mind. I then examine Bernini's preparatory drawings for La Predica della Battista as a case study for his drawing process. Bernini's drawings are critical to this contextual interpretation of the frontispiece because they exemplify his method of composing an image and the rhetorical strategies inherent to his process, which can be extracted through both biographical accounts and the drawings themselves. In my final section I suggest that the drawing practice that Bernini describes to his students shares characteristics with the Ciceronian and epideictic practice of composition that Oliva and other Jesuit orators would have practiced at this time. I argue that Bernini's La Predica della Battista frontispiece is a memorialization of the process of image making that seventeenth-century orators, and particularly Jesuit orators such as Gian Paolo Oliva, viewed as the most effective means of persuading their audience.

Table of Contents

Introduction: 1

Preaching in the Papal Court: Docere, Movere, and Delectare: 4

The Drawings: Invention, Arrangement, and Expression: 25

Conclusion: 33

Illustrations: 34

Works Cited: 58

About this Master's Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research Field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files