Filippo Ceppaluni, The Vision of St Dominic, oil on Canvas, 197.2 x 155.6 cm, 1710-1720. Private Collection. (Photo Credit: Bonhams, London).

Filippo Ceppaluni employs a rare iconography to depict the Vision of Saint Dominic, the Spanish saint who founded the famous the Order named after him. While pictures by the early modern masters Bernardo Cavallino and Bernardo Strozzi display the Saint enjoying visionary access to the Virgin Mary and Christ, the painting by Ceppaluni shows the saint encountering an image of himself. Three allegorical figures present his full-length portrait to him, where he appears in the same black-and-white habit as he is wearing to receive it. This painting-within-a-painting prefigures the saint’s posterity, showing him in a reverent transport, lily and bible in hand and with a halo behind him. In both his physical presence and his painted image, Saint Dominic wears the tonsure (corona) that had become canonical in the Church of Rome in the eleventh century. This regular bald patch on the top of his head is a sign of the necessary humility of priests of all religious orders.