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The ceiling: a comparison of styles

Learn to compare different ceiling styles, from Baroque to Late Neoclassical


The fresco is clearly still baroque due to theatricality and the formality of the scene. The rest of the vault is clearly later, as shown, for example, by the typically neoclassical festoons on both sides of the fresco.

This is a neoclassical fresco not a baroque one. Although this fresco still have theatricality and the tendency to exaggerate the scene typical of the Baroque, the figures are already neoclassical (note the figures that remainds to the ancient Rome).


The ceiling is a hybrid of three styles: the symmetry and theatricality of the Baroque are still respected, but some decorative details, such as small scenes and decoration with C and S scrolls are typical of the Rococo style. The straight decorative fascia with repeated motif are typically Neoclassical.

The less formal, the more intimate and not dramatized scenes, the return to natural world, and so the use of the flower as a decorative element, are typically rococo. Also in this case the decorative fascia indicate this fresco as a transitional between the Rococo and the Neoclassical style.

NEOCLASSICAL – 1750-1800

Simplified decoration with only sculpted bas-reliefs, marble frames, very linear appearance

The grotesque decoration was typical of the Roman era. Back in vogue during the Renaissance after the discovery of Nero’s Golden House, it was revived during the neoclassical period. Later this became the main style of the English architect Robert Adam.

The grotesque decoration is still used, but becomes monochrome, as if to resemble a bas-relief of carved marble. Note the typically neoclassical symbols: festoons, vases, decorative bands with repeated pattern.

Pre-neoclassical ceiling of the Palatine Chapel


The decoration consists only of gilded decorations (stucco in this case, but of bronze for furniture) and is typical of the Empire style of Napoleon.

Detail. Note the lily, the Bourbon’s blazon, and also the silver background used in some small parts to reflects as like as a mirror.

The linearity of the structure and the bas-relief decoration, the painting with Roman figures are still typically neoclassical, but the gilded decorations resembling gilded bronzes as like as happens with Empire style furniture, denoting a transitional style between the neoclassic style and late neoclassical of the Napoleonic era, the Empire style.The high presence of military decorations, and the fascia with griffins confirms the style.

 Take notice of the typical motifs of the Empire style: laurel crowns, swans, lyre, palmettos, military elements of ancient Rome (spears, helmets, shields).

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