This Choir of Angels is a preparatory sketch for the fresco Pozzi painted on the vault of the apse in the Cathedral at Naples (see fig. 1). Pozzi had been summoned there in 1744 by Cardinal Spinelli to decorate the apse recently restored by the Sienese architect, Paolo Possi. The design, inspired by a fresco of the same subject by Luigi Garzi in the church of San Carlo al Corso, Rome, is redolent of the graceful poses and fluid brushstrokes of Pozzi's rococo style that define this period of his career, before a transition to a more severe classicism.
The eldest son of an ivory carver in Rome, Stefano Pozzi trained under Andrea Procaccini until 1720, and later under Agostino Masucci. In 1732 he was admitted to the Congregazione dei Virtuosi al Pantheon and by 1736 to the Accademia di S. Luca. Following the work in the cathedral in Naples, Pozzi was commissioned to produce decorations for various buildings designed by Luigi Vanvitelli including the Montemorcino monastery at Perugia and the library in the Palazzo Sciarra-Colonna, Rome.
Pozzi's reputation from then on was sustained by papal patronage. Benedict XIV commissioned him to decorate the vaulting of Sant'Apollinare in 1746 and, on founding the Accademia del Nudo in 1754, Pozzi was appointed its first director. In 1758, the year Pope Clement XIII was elected, Pozzi succeeded his master Agostino Masucci in the post of Custode delle Pitture di Raffaello, becoming official painter of the papal palaces. Amongst the paintings executed for the Vatican, Pozzi continued Daniele de Volterra's work of covering up the nudity in Michelangelo's fresco of the Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel.
We are grateful to Professor Giancarlo Sestieri for proposing the attribution to Stefano Pozzi, on the basis of photographs, and identifying it as a modello for the fresco in the cathedral at Naples.