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The Domenichino Affair: Novelty, Imitation, and Theft in Seventeenth-Century Rome

Elizabeth Cropper, dean, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art. Ten years after completing his work The Last Communion of Saint Jerome, Bolognese painter Domenichino Zampieri 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 lecture recorded on December 11, 2005 at the National Gallery of Art, Elizabeth Cropper presents her latest book, which investigates the Domenichino affair and addresses the perennial debate regarding the precise nature of originality and imitation. Cropper offers a detailed analysis of attitudes toward imitation, emulation, and plagiarism, and a fascinating discussion of what Domenichino’s plight signifies in art history.