By: Amy Fredrickson
On July 15, 1609, Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) died in Rome. Alongside his brother Agostino (1557-1602) and his cousin Ludovico (1555-1619), the three Carracci reformed seventeenth-century Italian painting. In response to their displeasure with the highly mannerist style, the Carracci established the Accademia degli Incamminati in Bologna. Their pupils included distinguished artists such as Guido Reni and Domenichino. Through the careful study of Northern Italian and Venetian painting, they incorporated vibrant colors, saturated light sources, and naturalist tendencies. In addition to their 1582 frescos located in Palazzo Fava, the Carracci were often commissioned together to execute altarpieces.
Annibale Carracci was considered the most accomplished of the family of painters, and he helped foster the rise of genre painting in Italian Baroque art – focusing on ordinary people completing everyday tasks. One of his most famous genre scenes is The Bean Eater, which is a snapshot into the life of a seated peasant eating beans, a food associated with the peasantry. His renderings also included landscapes, which influenced later painters such as Nicolas Poussin.
Annibale transferred from Bologna to Rome and undertook a prestigious commission in 1597. Cardinal Odoardo Farnese employed Annibale to execute ceiling frescos for The Farnese Gallery in Palazzo Farnese. He brought the new style of painting the Carracci developed in Bologna to Rome. Annibale stayed in Rome and worked on the frescos for ten years, finishing the commission in 1607. The highly detailed ceiling frescos depicted mythological subjects and a visual display of love rooted in Greek mythology. His most famous fresco scene is Love of the Gods. Annibale designed the ceiling as an open sky, and he painted mythological scenes as framed easel paintings, employing a style called quadro riportato. Annibale derived his fresco style from antiquaries, as well as based on the works of Raphael and Michelangelo in Rome.
After Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, Annibale’s fresco cycle is considered one of the most influential. His work influenced artists such as Peter Paul Rubens and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who studied his fresco cycle. His work continued to inspire throughout the eighteenth-century. The Farnese Gallery was his last significant commission. Upon his death, the Romans honored Annibale Carracci by burying him besides Raphael in the Pantheon.
Christiansen, Keith. “Annibale Carracci (1560–1609).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000) http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/carr/hd_carr.htm(October 2003)
Dempsey, Charles, Annibale, Carracci: The Farnese Gallery, Rome. (G. Braziller, New York, 1995)
Robertson, Clare, The Invention of Annibale Carracci. (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan, 2008)
Self-Portrait, c.1590s, oil on canvas, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
The Bean Eater, c. 1590, oil on canvas, Galleria Colonna, Rome
Two Children Teasing a Cat, c.1587-88, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Vaulted ceiling frescos, 1597–1607, The Farnese Gallery, Palazzo Farnese, Rome
Love of the Gods, 1597–1607, The Farnese Gallery, Palazzo Farnese, Rome