Annibale Carracci

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Self-portrait, (Uffizi)
Annibale Carracci (November 3, 1560 - July 15, 1609) was an Italian Baroque painter.

Early career

Annibale Carracci was born in Bologna, and in all likelihood first apprenticed within his family. In 1582, Annibale, his brother Agostino, and his cousin Ludovico Carracci opened a painter's studio, called by some initially as the Academy of Desiderosi (Desirous of fame and learning) or subsequently of the Incamminati (progressives; literally "of those opening a new way"). While the Carraccis laid emphasis on the typically Florentine linear draftsmanship, as exemplified by Raphael and Andrea del Sarto, their style also derived from Venetian painters an attention to the glimmering colors and mistier edge of objects. This eclecticism would define artists of the Baroque Emilian or Bolognese School.

It is difficult to distinguish the individual contributions by each Carracci in many early works in Bologna. For example, the frescoes on the story of Jason for the Palazzo Fava in Bologna (c. 1583-84); the frescoes are signed by Carracci and state that they all contributed. In 1585, Annibale completed an altarpiece of the Baptism of Christ for the church of San Gregorio in Bologna. In 1587, he painted the Assumption for the church of San Rocco in Reggio Emilia. In 1587-88, Annibale is known to have had traveled to Parma and then Venice, where he met up with his brother Agostino. From 1589-92, the three Carracci complete the frescoes on the Founding of Rome for the Palazzo Magnani in Bologna. By 1593, Annibale completed by an altarpiece, Virgin on the throne with St John and St Catherine, working alongside with Lucio Massari. His Resurrection of Christ also dates from the year 1593. In 1592, he paints an Assumption for the Bonasoni chapel in San Francesco. During 1593-1594, all three Carracci work at frescoes in the Palazzo Sampieri in Bologna.

Frescoes in Palazzo Farnese

Based on the prolific and masterful frescoes by the Carracci in Bologna, Annibale was recommended by the Duke of Parma, Ranuccio I Farnese, to his brother, the Cardinal Odoardo Farnese, who wished to decorate the piano nobile of the cavernous Roman Palazzo Farnese. In November-December of 1595, Annibale and Agostino traveled to Rome to begin decorating the Camerino with stories of Hercules, appropriate since the room housed the famous Greco-Roman antique sculpture of the hypermuscular Farnese Hercules.

Annibale meanwhile developed hundreds of preparatory sketches for the major product, wherein he led a team painting frescoes on the ceiling of the grand salon with the secular quadri riportati of The Loves of the Gods, or as the biographer Giovanni Bellori described it, Human Love governed by Celestial Love. Although the ceiling is riotously rich in illusionistic elements, the narratives are framed in the restrained classicism of High Renaissance decoration, drawing inspiration from, yet more immediate and intimate, than Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling as well as Raphael's Vatican Logge and Villa Farnesina frescoes. His work would later inspire the untrammelled stream of Baroque illusionism and energy that would emerge in the grand frescoes of Cortona, Lanfranco, and in later decades Andrea Pozzo and Gaulli.

Throughout 17th and 18th centuries, the Farnese Ceiling was considered the unrivaled masterpiece of fresco painting for its age. They were not only seen as a pattern book of heroic figure design, but also as a model of technical procedure; Annibale’s hundreds of preparatory drawings for the ceiling became a fundamental step in composing any ambitious history painting.

Contrast with Caravaggio

The 17th century critic Giovanni Bellori, in his survey titled Idea, praised Carracci as the paragon of Italian painters, who had fostered a “renaissance” of the great tradition of Raphael and Michelangelo. On the other hand, while admitting Caravaggio's talents as a painter, Bellori deplored his over-naturalistic style, if not his turbulent morals and persona. He thus viewed the Caravaggisti styles with the same gloomy dismay. Painters were urged to depict the Platonic ideal of beauty, not Roman street-walkers. Yet Carracci and Caravaggio patrons and pupils did not all fall into irreconcilable camps. Contemporary patrons, such as Marquess Vincenzo Giustiniani, found both applied showed excellence in maniera and modeling.[1]

In our century, observers have warmed to the rebel myth of Caravaggio, and often ignore the profound influence on art that Carracci had. Caravaggio almost never worked in fresco, regarded as the test of a great painter's mettle. On the other hand, Carracci's best works are in fresco. Thus the somber canvases of Caravaggio, with benighted backgrounds, are suited to the contemplative altars, and not to well lit walls or ceilings such as this one in the Farnese. Wittkower was surprised that a Farnese cardinal surrounded himself with frescoes of libidinous themes, indicative of a "considerable relaxation of counter-reformatory morality". This thematic choice suggests Carracci may have been more rebellious relative to the often-solemn religious passion of Caravaggio's canvases. Wittkower states Carracci's "frescoes convey the impression of a tremendous joie de vivre, a new blossoming of vitality and of an energy long repressed".

Today, unfortunately, most connoisseurs making the pilgrimage to the Cerasi Chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo would ignore Carracci’s Assumption of the Virgin altarpiece (1600-1601) and focus on the stunning flanking Caravaggio works. It is instructive to compare the theologic and artistic differences between Carracci's Assumption[2] and Caravaggio's Death of the Virgin. Among early contemporaries, Carracci would have been an innovator. He re-enlivened the Michelangelo's visual fresco vocabulary, and posited a muscular and vivaciously brilliant pictorial landscape, which had been becoming progressively crippled into a Mannerist tangle. While Michelangelo could bend and contort the body into all the possible perspectives, Carracci in the Farnese frescoes had shown how it could dance. The "ceiling"-frontiers, the wide expanses of walls to be frescoed would, for the next decades, be thronged by the monumental brilliance of the Carracci followers, and not Caravaggio's followers.

In the following century, it was not the admirers of Caravaggio, who would have dismissed Carracci, but to a lesser extent than Bernini and Cortona, baroque art in general came under criticism from neoclassic critics such as Winckelmann and even later from the prudish John Ruskin. Carracci in part was spared opprobrium because he was seen as an emulator of the highly admired Raphael, and in the Farnese frescoes, attentive to the proper themes such as those of antique mythology.

Landscapes, genre art and drawings

On July 8, 1595, Annibale completed the painting of San Rocco distributing alms, now in Dresden Gemäldegalerie. Other significant late works painted by Carracci in Rome include Domine, Quo Vadis? (c1602), which reveals a striking economy in figure composition and a force and precision of gesture that influenced on Poussin and through him, the language of gesture in painting.

Carracci was remarkably eclectic in thematic, painting landcapes, genre scenes, and portraits, including a series of autoportraits across the ages. He was one of the first Italian painters to paint a canvases wherein landscape took priority over figures, such as his masterful The Flight into Egypt; this is a genre in which he was followed by Domenichino (his favorite pupil) and Lorraine.

Carracci's art also had a less formal side that comes out in his caricatures (he is generally credited with inventing the form) and in his early genre paintings, which are remarkable for their lively observation and free handling (see The Butcher's Shop) and his painting of The Beaneater. He is described by biographers as inattentive to dress, obsessed with work: his self-portraits vary in his depiction.[3]

Under a melancholic humor

It is not clear how much work Annibale completed after finishing the major gallery in the Palazzo Farnese. In 1606, Annibale signs a Madonna of the bowl. However, in a letter from April 1606, the cardinal Odoarde Farnese bemoans that a "heavy melancholic humor" prevented Annibale from painting for him. Throughout 1607, Annibale is unable to complete a commission for the Duke of Modena of a Nativity. There is a note from 1608, where in Annibale stipulates to a pupil that he will spend at least two hours a day in his studio.

There is little documentation from the man or time to explain why his brush was stilled. Speculation abounds.

In 1609, Annibale dies, and was buried, according to his wish, near Raphael in the Pantheon of Rome. It is a measure of his achievement that artists as diverse as Bernini, Poussin, and Rubens praised his work. Many of his assistants or pupils in projects at the Palazzo Farnese and Herrera Chapel would become among the pre-eminent artists of the next decades, including Domenichino, Francesco Albani, Giovanni Lanfranco, Domenico Viola, Guido Reni, Sisto Badalocchio, and others.

Chronology of works

Sources

  • Catholic Encyclopedia: Carracci
  • Wittkower-1993">Wittkower, Rudolph (1993). "Art and Architecture Italy, 1600-1750", Pelican History of Art, 1980, Penguin Books Ltd, 57-71. 
  • Gianfranco, Malafarina (1976). L' opera completa di Annibale Carracci, preface by Patrick J. Cooney. Ruzzoli Editore, Milano. 

Footnotes

1. ^ Wittkover, p. 57
2. ^ see the more adept altarpiece at the Prado [1].
3. ^ see mostra
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Baroque was a Western cultural epoch, commencing roughly at the turn of the 17th century in Rome, that was exemplified by drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music..
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Painting, meant literally, is the practice of applying color to a surface (support) such as paper, canvas, wood, glass, lacquer or concrete. However, when used in an artistic sense, the term "painting" means the use of this activity in combination with drawing, composition and
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Agostino Carracci (or Caracci) (August 16, 1557 - March 22, 1602) was an Italian painter and printmaker. He was the brother of the more famous Annibale and cousin of Lodovico Carracci.
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Ludovico (or Lodovico) Carracci (April 21, 1555 – November 13, 1619) was an Italian, early-Baroque painter, etcher, and printmaker born in Bologna.
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Andrea del Sarto, true name Andrea d'Agnolo di Francesco di Luca di Paolo del Migliore, (July 16 1486 – January 21 1531), was an Italian painter from Florence, whose career flourished during the High Renaissance and Mannerism.
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The Bolognese School or the School of Bologna of painting flourished in Bologna, the capital of Emilia Romagna, between the 16th and 17th centuries in Italy, and rivalled Florence and Rome as the center of painting.
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Lucio Massari (22 January, 1569- 3 November, 1633) was an Italian painter of the School of Bologna. He can be described as painting during both Mannerist and early-Baroque periods.
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Ranuccio I Farnese (March 28, 1569 — March 5, 1622) was the fourth Duke of Parma and Piacenza from 1592 until his death. He was the son of Duke Alessandro Farnese and Maria of Portugal.
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Odoardo Farnese (december 6, 1573 - February 21, 1626) was a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in Italy, and briefly regent of the Duchy of Parma for his nephew Odoardo from 1622 to 1626.

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  • The Choice of Hercules

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Palazzo Farnese is a prominent High Renaissance palace in Rome, which currently houses the French Embassy in Italy.

"The most imposing Italian palace of the sixteenth century", according to Sir Banister Fletcher (1) , this palace was designed by Antonio da Sangallo the
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Farnese Hercules is an ancient sculpture, probably an enlarged copy made in the early third century AD by Glykon[1] of an original of Lysippos or one of his circle, of the fourth century BC.
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The Loves of the Gods is a massive fresco cycle completed by Annibale Caracci and his studio in the Palazzo Farnese (now the French Embassy) in Rome. The fresco series was greatly admired in its time, and was later felt to reflect a change in aesthetic in Rome from Mannerism
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Gian Pietro Bellori (also known as Giovanni Pietro Bellori or Giovan Pietro Bellori, 1613 - 1696) was a prominent biographer of the Italian Baroque artists of the seventeenth century. As an art historian, he was the Baroque equivalent of Giorgio Vasari.
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Renaissance (French for "rebirth"; Italian: Rinascimento; Spanish: Renacimiento), was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th through the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe.
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The Sistine Chapel (Italian: Cappella Sistina) is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, in the Vatican City.
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Villa Farnesina is an artistically and architecturally influential Renaissance villa in Via della Lungara, in the central district of Trastevere in the centre of Rome.

The villa was built by Agostino Chigi, a rich Sienese banker and treasurer of Pope Julius II.
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Pietro da Cortona, byname of Pietro Berettini (November 1 1596- May 16, 1669) was a prolific artist and architect of High Baroque. Cortona is best known for painting fresco ceilings, a pursuit in which he had ample competition in the Rome of his day, but he was equally
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Giovanni Lanfranco (26 January 1582 - 30 November 1647) was an Italian painter of the Baroque period.

Biography

Lanfranco was born in Parma, where he began as an apprentice to the Bolognese Agostino Carracci, working alongside fellow Parmesan Sisto Badalocchio in the
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Andrea Pozzo (Latinized version: Andreas Puteus; November 30, 1642,Trento, Italy - August 31, 1709, Vienna, Austria) was an Italian Jesuit Brother, Baroque painter and architect, decorator, stage designer, and art theoretician.
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Giovanni Battista Gaulli (May 8 1639- April 2 1709), also known as Baciccio, Il Baciccio or Baciccia (all Genoese nicknames for Giovanni Battista) was a painter of the Italian High Baroque verging onto that of the Rococo.
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Gian Pietro Bellori (also known as Giovanni Pietro Bellori or Giovan Pietro Bellori, 1613 - 1696) was a prominent biographer of the Italian Baroque artists of the seventeenth century. As an art historian, he was the Baroque equivalent of Giorgio Vasari.
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