From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Carracci were three Bolognese cousins; brothers Annibale (1560–1609) and Agostino (1557–1602), and Ludovico (1555–1619). They came from a local middle class family and dedicated themselves to the style of painting being practiced in the urban environment that in the years of their youth was dominated by artists of the late Mannerist tradition such as: Domenico Tibaldi, Prospero Fontana e Bartolomeo Passarotti.
Artwork and theory
The importance of their artistic and theoretical activity, recognized in all three painters, underlined by the studies of critics and historians of the arts such as André Chastel, Giulio Carlo Argan, and many others, has decisively contributed to the exit of the crisis of Mannerism, to the formation of the figurative Baroque, and to new pictorial solutions based on the recuperation of the classical and Renaissance tradition but renewed following the practice and the precepts of the study of the true and of the design.
The crisis of the culture of Catholicism was highlighted after the Protestant Reform (in 1517 Martin Luther expounded his 95 theses in Wittenberg), and the successive “sack of Rome” by the troops of Charles V in 1527, facts that rendered the papal capital more insecure and unstable, and less attractive to the artists of the Roman epoch who at the end of the 16th century were less inclined to produce a new artistic movement.
The mannerist art that wearily replicated the style of the masters of the Renaissance, emphasizing the formal complications and virtuosity, no longer obeyed the need for clarity and devotion. Bologna was at the center of a territory in which the work of the artists traditionally had a pronounced devotional and pietistic character, and furthermore found themselves in close contact with Padana and Venetian art. On these cultural and aesthetic bases the Carracci developed their work as theorists of artistic renewal, emphasizing the humanity of subjects and the clarity of the sacred scenes.
The eclecticism of their art, the respect for tradition and a language adapted to the public places frequented by the working classes satisfied the desires of the church of the Counter-Reformation that needed a new mode to express its primacy over the other religions and confirm that art could and had to be a vehicle towards faith.
The Carracci fit perfectly into the political and artistic moment of the epoch, they understand the need for an artistic tension that could reflect the new desires and that was free from the artifacts and the complexity of Mannerism.
In 1582 they instituted a school that had the precise task of forming culturally and pictorially new artists, calling it first Academy of the Desirous and successively Academy of the Incamminati (1590). Ludovico, the eldest, assumed the role of theorist and imposed the redirection towards the study of the real (first drawn and then cleaned of defects). This direct approach to the subject depicted was the first step towards making it more natural.
Another principle of the Carracci doctrine was the devotional aspect, the respect of the orthodoxy of the represented history. In doing this the Carracci followed the instructions contained in the work of the theorists of the time such as the Cardinal Gabriele Paleotti, author in 1582 of the sermon on the sacred images and the profane which advocated for the control on the part of the ecclesiastic authority of the contents of the sacred scenes (the saints and their attributes had to be easily recognizable and respectful of the traditional, additionally the stories had to demonstrate fidelity towards the sacred texts), while the artists retained the “liberty” to choose the most suitable style. Another point of reference to was the work of Giovanni Andrea Gilio, author of two dialogues…on the errors of painters in 1564 in which it criticized the excesses of refinement, of allegories and the bizarre inventions of the Mannerist art. The stories and the characters rendered lifelike in imitation of nature had to then be ennobled by the exercise of the art and refined on the example of the great masters of the past such as Raphael Sanzio and Machelangelo Buonarroti, but also Tiziano, Veronese, Tintoretto, Correggio, and Parmigianino.
Following these dictates the art would play a precise role in education and spiritual elevation, by negating divine humanization, the sacred scene was made closer to the human dimension. The intent of the Carracci was to form the new talents of art with an education that was valid both from a practical and cultural point of view, a modern concept of school. The academy was organized in part as a workshop of the 15th century where one practiced a lot, learned the technique and the skill of painting, and the pupil became accustomed to acquiring a personal vision of reality through designing real objects, this approach eliminated the complex theories of the Mannerist art, but at the same time the artists became raised in the humanities (literature, sciences, philosophy) to give them a cultural base as well as the artistic profession.
The direction and the choice of the orientations of the academy belonged to the oldest Ludovico, but just as important was the figure of Agostino, a man of great culture, in the school he became the teacher of anatomy and prospective, and as an expert of mythology he could influence his brother Annibale.
Agostino was also an important printmaker, reproducing the works of masters from the 16th century (mainly Correggio and Veronese) as examples to imitate for the numerous students of their school. Annibale was the most talented and the one who, following his trip to Rome in 1595 where the works would be exhibited until his death in 1609, exercised an decisive influence on the fate of Italian painting at the dawn of the 17th century, he probably held the role teacher of painting technique.
The collective works
In addition to their individual works, the three Carracci cousins were active in enterprises realized collectively.
In 1584 they frescoed some halls of the palazzo of count Filippo Fava in Bologna with Stories of Jason and Medea, a work still uncertain in the style of which the conception is attributed to Ludovico and the execution to Agostino.
In 1590 they decorated the Hall of Honor of Palazzo Magnani with frescoes and paintings of the Stories of Romulus and Remus. In these decorations Annibale led the work as demonstrated by the plastic style (the figures are solid, powerful and muscular, a classical look, with vibrant colors) and illusionist style (the frames of the scenes simulate the look of canvas with faux cracks). In 1592 some ovals with mythological styling were painted by the three Carracci in the Palazzo of the Diamanti in Ferrara, of which the Venus and Cupid of Annibale is from the Galleria Estense of Modena. Between 1593 and 1594, always in Bologna, they frescoed there halls of Palazzo Sampieri with Stories of Hercules. The Carraci also worked on the decoration of the main floor between the courtyard and the garden of Palazzao Farnese in Rome.
The Academy of the Incamminati was the formation site of many Emilian artists of the 17th century that became protagonists of Italian art: Guercino, Domenichino, Lanfranco, Francesco Albani, Guido Reni, Alessandro Tiarini and Sisto Badalocchio.
- C.C. Malvasia, Felsina Pittrice. Vite de' pittori bolognesi divise in due tomi Roma, 1678
- Denis Mahon, Studies in seicento art and theory London, 1947
- Mostra dei Carracci: disegni catalogo critico a cura di Dennis Mahon, Bologna 1956
- Maestri della pittura del Seicento emiliano catalogo della mostra a cura di Giulio Carlo Cavalli, Francesco Arcangeli, Andrea Emiliani, Maurizio Calvesi e Carlo Volpe, Bologna 1959
- The Carracci: drawings and paintings catalogo della mostra a cura di Ralph Holland, 1961
- Donald Posner, The Roman style of Annibale Carracci and his school, New York 1962
- Le incisioni dei Carracci catalogo della mostra a cura di Maurizio Calvesi e Vittorio Casale, Roma 1965
- Le arti di Bologna di Annibale Carracci a cura di Alessandro Marabottini, Roma 1966
- Anna Ottani Cavina, Gli affreschi dei Carracci in Palazzo Fava, Bologna 1966
- Donald Posner, Annibale Carracci: a study in the reform of Italian painting around 1590, New York 1971
- Carlo Volpe, Il fregio dei Carracci e i dipinti di Palazzo Magnani in Bologna, Bologna 1972
- Anton W.A. Boschloo, Annibale Carracci in Bologna: visible reality in art after the Council of Trent, 's-Gravenhage 1974
- Pittori bolognesi del Seicento nelle Gallerie di Firenze, catalogo della mostra a cura di Evelina Borea, Firenze 1975
- L'opera completa di Annibale Carracci a cura di Gianfranco Malafarina, Milano 1976
- Charles Dempsey, Annibale Carracci and the beginnings of baroque style, Glückstad 1977
- Diane De Grazia, Prints and related drawings by the Carracci family: a catalogue raisonné, Bloomington 1979
- Le Palais Farnèse, Roma 1980
- Bologna 1584: gli esordi dei Carracci e gli affreschi di Palazzo Fava, catalogo della mostra, Bologna 1984
- Gail Feigenbaum, Lodovico Carracci: a study of his later career and a catalogue of his paintings, Princeton 1984
- Sydney J. Freedberg, Circa 1600: Annibale Carracci, Caravaggio, Ludovico Carracci: una rivoluzione stilistica nella pittura italiana, Bologna 1984
- Cesare Gnudi, L'ideale classico: saggi sulla tradizione classica nella pittura del Cinquecento e del Seicento, Bologna 1984
- Annibale Carracci e i suoi incisori, catalogo della mostra, Roma 1986
- Nell'età di Correggio e dei Carracci, catalogo mostra, Bologna, 1986
- Gli amori degli dei: nuove indagini sulla Galleria Farnese, a cura di Giuliano Briganti, André Chastel e Roberto Zapperi. Roma 1987
- Dall'avanguardia dei Carracci al secolo barocco: Bologna 1580 – 1600 catalogo della mostra a cura di Andrea Emiliani, Bologna, 1988
- Les Carrache et les decors profanes, Atti del colloquio (Roma, 2–4 ottobre 1986), Roma 1988
- Roberto Zapperi, Annibale Carracci, Torino, 1988
- Gli scritti dei Carracci: Ludovico, Annibale, Agostino, Antonio, Giovanni Antonio a cura di Giovanna Perini, Bologna 1990
- Ludovico Carracci, catalogo della mostra a cura di Andrea Emiliani, Bologna 1993
- Rudolf Wittkower, Arte e architettura in Italia 1600–1750, Torino, 1993
- Emilio Negro e Massimo Pirondini, La scuola dei Carracci: dall'Accademia alla bottega di Ludovico, Modena 1994
- Il chiostro dei Carracci a San Michele in Bosco a cura di Maria Silvia Campanini, Bologna 1994
- Silvia Ginzburg Carignani, Annibale Carracci a Roma: gli affreschi di Palazzo Farnese, Roma 2000
- Claudio Strinati, Annibale Carracci, Roma, 2001
- Alessandro Brogi, Ludovico Carracci (1555–1619), Ozzano Emilia 2001
- Annibale Carracci catalogo della mostra a cura di Daniele Benati e Eugenio Riccòmini, Milano 2006
Articles, essays, contributions:
- Alfredo Petrucci, L'incisione carraccesca in «Bollettino d'arte» n. 35, pp. 131–144, 1950
- Lionello Venturi, L'"eclettismo" e i Carracci: un post-scriptum in «Commentari» n.3, pp. 163–171, 1950
- Francesco Arcangeli, Sugli inizi dei Carracci in «Paragone» n.79, pp. 17–48, 1956
- Maurizio Calvesi, Note ai Carracci in «Commentari» n. 7, pp. 263–276, 1956
- Augusta Ghidiglia Quintavalle, I Carracci e Parma in «Aurea Parma» n. 4, pp. 284–288, 1956
- Roberto Longhi, Annibale, 1584? in «Paragone» n.89, pp. 33–42, 1957
- Alessandro Del Vita, L'animosità di Agostino Carracci contro il Vasari in «Il Vasari» pp. 64–78, 1958
- Stephen E. Ostrow, Note sugli affreschi con "Storie di Giasone" in Palazzo Fava in «Arte antica e moderna» n. 9, pp. 68–75, 1960
- A. Richard Turner, The Genesis of a Carracci Landscape in «The Art quarterly» n. 3, pp. 249–258, 1961
- Guido L. Luzzatto, Le succés des Carraches et de l'école Bolonaise in «Gazette des beaux-arts» n. 103, pp. 85–92, 1961
- Stephen Pepper, Annibale Carracci ritrattista in «Arte illustrata» n. 6, pp. 127–137, 1973
- Carlo Volpe, Sugli inizi di Ludovico Carracci in «Paragone» n.317/319, pp. 115–129, 1976
- Silvana Macchioni, Annibale Carracci, Ercole al bivio: dalla volta del Camerino Farnese alla Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte. Genesi e interpretazioni in «Storia dell'arte» n. 41/43, pp. 151–170, 1981
- Roberto Zapperi, Per la datazione degli affreschi della Galleria Farnese in «Mélanges de l'Ecole Française de Rome» n. 93, pp. 821–822, 1981
- Diane de Grazia, The influence of Parmigianino on the drawings of Agostino and Annibale Carracci in Le arti a Bologna e in Emilia dal XVI al XVII secolo a cura di Andrea Emiliani, pp. 141–150, 1982
- Luigi Spezzaferro, I Carracci tra Naturalismo e Classicismo in Le arti a Bologna e in Emilia dal XVI al XVII secolo, pp. 203–228, 1982
- Luigi Grassi, I luoghi determinanti nella vicenda critica dei Carracci e i disegni relativi al fregio di Palazzo Magnani in Studi in onore di Giulio Carlo Argan, pp. 207–218, 1984
- Eugenio Riccòmini, I Carracci in Storia illustrata di Bologna a cura di Walter Tega, pp. 201–220, 1989
- Charles Dempsey, Gli studi sui Carracci: lo stato della questione in «Arte a Bologna» n. 1, p. 21–31, 1991
- Andrea Emiliani, Gli esordi dei Carracci in La pittura in Emilia e in Romagna. Il Seicento pp. 77–112, 1992
- Ann Sutherland Harris, Ludovico, Agostino, Annibale: "... l'abbiam fatta tutti noi" in «Atti e memorie dell'Accademia Clementina» n. 33/34, pp. 69–84, 1995
- Charles Dempsey, Annibale Carracci in L'idea del bello: viaggio per Roma nel Seicento con Giovan Pietro Bellori catalogo della mostra a cura di Evelina Borea e Carlo Gasparri pp. 199–211, Roma 2000
- Ann Sutherland Harris, Agostino Carracci in L'idea del bello... pp. 212–228, Roma 2000
- Charles Dempsey, I Carracci a Palazzo Farnese in L'idea del bello... pp. 229–257, Roma 2000
- Silvia Ginzburg, Sulla datazione e sul significato degli affreschi della Galleria Farnese in Studi di storia dell'arte in onore di Denis Mahon a cura di M. G. Bernardini, S. Danesi Squarzina e C. Strinati, pp. 95–108, 2000
L'arte in Emilia e in Romagna: da Correggio a Morandi catalogo della mostra a cura di Andrea Emiliani e Michela Scolaro, pp.
- Annibale Carracci
- Agostino Carracci
- Ludovico Carracci
- Antonio Marziale Carracci
- Francesco Carracci
- Gabriele Bombasi