The Vocation of Saint Aloysius (Luigi) Gonzaga

Artist: Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri) (Italian, Cento 1591–1666 Bologna)

Date: ca. 1650

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 140 x 106 in. (355.6 x 269.2 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 1973

Accession Number: 1973.311.3


Luigi Gonzaga (born 1568) was the eldest son of the marquis of Castiglione. He resigned the marquisate in favor of his younger brother, and in 1585 joined the Jesuit novitiate in Rome. He devoted himself to the care of the poor until he died of the plague in 1591. He was beatified in 1621 and canonized in 1726. Guercino’s altarpiece was commissioned for the Theatine church of Guastalla in 1650 by Duke Ferrante III Gonzaga (1618–1678). An angel holds a heavenly wreath over the saint’s head, while at his feet are a sheaf of lilies, representing chastity, and a crown, symbolizing the marquisate he had renounced.