Domenico Zampieri, known as Domenichino for his shortness (October 21, 1581 – April 6, 1641), was an Italian Baroque painter of the Bolognese or Carracci School of painters.
Domenichino’s work, developed principally from Raphael’s and the Carracci’s examples, mirrors the theoretical ideas of his friend Giovanni Battista Agucchi, with whom the painter collaborated on a Treatise on Painting. The portrait of Agucchi in York used to be attributed to Domenichino, but is now thought to be by Annibale Carracci, another friend.
It represents what would become known as classic-idealist art, which aims to surpass the imperfections of nature by developing an “Idea of Beauty” (idea del bello) through the study and imitation of the best examples of ancient and Renaissance art. Imitation in this sense is not copying but a creative process inspired by rhetorical theory whereby revered models are not only emulated but surpassed. One of the most famous incidents in the history of art that centered on concepts of Imitation arose when Lanfranco accused Domenichino of plagiarism, specifically of having stolen the design of his great Last Communion of St. Jerome from an altarpiece of the same subject in Bologna by his former teacher, Agostino Carracci. To prove his point, Lanfranco circulated a print after Agostino’s painting, prompting painters and critics to take sides, most of whom—including Poussin and the antiquarian-critic-biographer Bellori—strongly defended Domenichino’s work as being praiseworthy imitation.