At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

3 November 2017

Annibale Carracci – painter

Bolognese master produced his most influential work in Rome

A self-portrait of Annibale Carracci
A self-portrait of Annibale Carracci
The Baroque painter Annibale Carracci was born on this day in 1560 in Bologna.

Annibale and his followers were to become highly influential in the development of Roman painting, bringing back the classical tradition of the High Renaissance.

He was probably apprenticed as a painter with members of his own family in Bologna. But his talents began to develop during a tour of northern Italy in the 1580s. He lodged in Venice with the painter Jacopo Bassano, whose style of painting influenced him for a time.

Annibale has been credited with rediscovering the early 16th century painter Correggio, who had almost been forgotten outside Parma. Annibale’s Baptism of Christ, painted in 1585 for the Church of San Gregorio in Bologna, is a brilliant tribute to him.

In 1582 Annibale opened a studio in Bologna with his brother, Agostino Carraci, and his older cousin, Ludovico Carracci. While working there, Annibale painted The Enthroned Madonna with St Matthew in 1588 for the Church of San Prospero in Reggio.

By the time Annibale collaborated with the other two Carracci on frescoes in the Palazzo Magnani (now the Palazzo Salem) and two other noble houses in Bologna, he had become the leading master among them.

Carracci's Madonna Enthroned with St Matthew hangs in a gallery in Dresden
Carracci's Madonna Enthroned with St
hangs in a gallery in Dresden
In 1595 Annibale went to Rome to work for the rich, young cardinal Odoardo Farnese, who wanted the principal floor of his palace decorated with frescoes.

In Rome, Annibale studied Michelangelo, Raphael and ancient Greek and Roman art in order to adapt his style to his new surroundings.

After decorating the study in Palazzo Farnese, he was joined by his older brother, Agostino, in the chief enterprise of his career, painting the frescoes of the coved ceiling of the Galleria with love fables from Ovid.

These decorations were considered to be a triumph of classicism tempered with humanity. The powerfully modelled figures in these frescoes have been seen as an imaginative response to Michelangelo’s frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

The Galleria Farnese became an invaluable place for young painters to study until well into the 18th century and proved a rich feeding ground for Gian Lorenzo Bernini among others.

Annibale was underpaid for his long and intense labours in the Palazzo Farnese and he gave up working on it altogether in 1605.

Annibale's Baptism of Christ
Annibale's Baptism of Christ
He subsequently produced some of his finest religious paintings, including landscapes for the Palazzo Aldobrandini in Frascati that were to influence the work of Domenichino and Nicolas Poussin in Rome.

Annibale died at the age of 48 in 1609 in Rome after a few years of illness. He was buried according to his wish near Raphael in the Pantheon. Many of his assistants and pupils, such as Domenichino and Guido Reni, were later to become the pre-eminent artists for the next few decades.

Part of the ceiling at the Palazzo Fernese in Rome
Part of the ceiling at the Palazzo Fernese in Rome
Travel tip:

Palazzo Farnese, where Annibale Carracci did some of his best work in the Galleria, is one of the most important High Renaissance palaces in Rome. Owned by the Italian republic, the palazzo in Piazza Farnese was given to the French Government in 1936 for a period of 99 years and currently serves as the French embassy in Italy. One of the scenes in Puccini’s opera Tosca is set in Palazzo Farnese.

Carracci is buried alongside Raphael at The Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda in the heart of Rome
Carracci is buried alongside Raphael at The Pantheon in
Piazza della Rotonda in the heart of Rome
Travel tip:

The Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda, is one of the best preserved ancient buildings in Rome. It was built as a temple but was converted into a Christian church in the seventh century. The Pantheon now contains the tombs of painters and kings. Along with Annibale Carracci, King Umberto I of Italy, King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy and Raphael are buried there.

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