The Carracci

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From left to right, Annibale, Ludovico and Agostino Carracci

The Carracci (/kəˈrɑːi/ kə-RAH-chee, also UK: /kəˈrætʃi/ kə-RACH-ee,[1][2] Italian: [karˈrattʃi]) were a Bolognese family of artists that played an instrumental role in bringing forth the art movement known as the Baroque. Brothers Annibale (1560–1609) and Agostino (1557–1602) along with their cousin Ludovico (1555–1619) worked collaboratively on art works and art theories pertaining to the Baroque style. The Carracci family left their legacy in art theory by starting a school for artists in 1582. The school was called the Accademia degli Incamminati, and its main focus was to oppose and challenge Mannerist artistic practices and principles in order to create art that was avant-garde with a new modernist edge. “Jointly they effected an artistic reform that overthrew Mannerist aesthetics and initiated the Baroque.”[3]

Art Theory[edit]

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.

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 Michelangelo Buonarroti, but also Tiziano, Veronese, Tintoretto, Correggio, and Parmigianino.

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.

Accademia degli Incamminati[edit]

Driven by the desire to explore and share their new-found approach to painting, the Carracci family collectively founded a school of art in Bologna around 1582.[4] Initially named Accademia dei Desiderosi (“Academy of the Desirous”), the school most likely began as an informal gathering of young artists in Ludovico Carracci's studio.[3] Around 1590, the academy was renamed Accademia degli Incamminati (“Academy of Those who are Making Progress” or “Academy of the Journeying”), and adopted a more didactic academic programme.[3]

There is some debate regarding the school's organization and academic structure.[4] However, it is likely that the academy functioned as a combination of a painters’ workshop and a formal institution, and was attended by both students and established artists alike.[4]

Each member of the Carracci family made a unique contribution to the academy. It is believed that Ludovico Carracci occupied an administrative position, while Agostino was responsible for gathering new information, and Annibale for providing creativity, inspiration, and lessons on painting technique.[5] Ludovico assembled and consolidated new materials to use as teaching aids, including a collection of plaster casts of classical works.[5] Agostino brought to the school a wealth of knowledge in a variety of subjects, including art, music, philosophy, math, astronomy, geography, cartography, anthropology, and natural history.[4] He used his knowledge of anatomy to construct detailed drawings of the human form, and provided books and medals from his own collection for the benefit of the students.[5] Annibale, the most experienced artist of the group, shared his knowledge of painting via collaborative works with his pupils.[3]

The Carracci intended to provide the educated next generation of artists with an education that was valid both from a practical and theoretical point of view.[5] The students were trained in a number of subjects to establish an intellectual background from which they could develop their artistic skill. Great emphasis was placed on the study of nature, and students were encouraged to practice drawing from life.[3] The Carracci led their pupils in the study of experimental drawing, caricature, landscape painting, imitation, anatomy, perspective, and artistic theory. Students were also taught history, fables, and poetic inventions from which to draw inspiration.[4]

Notable students of the Carracci Academy include Francesco Albani, Guido Reni, Domenico Zampieri (Domenichino), Giovanni Lanfranco, Antonio Carracci,[6] and Sisto Badalocchio.[3]

The opening of the Accademia degli Incamminati brought the Carracci name to great repute and attracted numerous commissions. These projects were typically allocated among the family by Ludovico or completed jointly by the three Carracci.[7]

Collective works[edit]

There is much speculation and debate among art historians about which of the Carracci family members designed and executed various aspects of the frescoes that they painted. Extant preparatory sketches for the frescoes indicate that for each artwork, the preliminary sketches were likely created by all of the Carracci collaboratively. Likewise the finished frescoes would have been painted by all three of the Carracci but “despite much debate, there is no consensus among scholars as to the attribution of several scenes.”[3] “When asked who had done each scene, the Carracci, having freely traded ideas and sketches, and having worked elbow to elbow, are claimed to have responded, ‘it is by the Carracci, we did it together.’ Such intimate collaboration, in which the individual style was sublimated in favor of a seamless, lively, and highly illusionistic effect, is characteristic of the Carracci's early period.”[8]

From 1583 to 1594, Annibale, Agostino, and Ludovico worked collaboratively to paint frescos on ceilings and walls of palaces in Bologna and Ferrara.[3] One of their first joint commissions was the Palazzo Fava in Bologna. Here the Carracci painted frescoes of the Stories of Europa (1583–84), Stories of Jason (1583-84), and Stories of Aeneas (1586).[3] The Carracci family's masterpiece, Stories of the Founding of Rome, was completed circa 1589-90, and is located in the main salon at the Palazzo Magnani-Salem in Bologna.[3] In 1592, the Carracci went to Ferrara to decorate the ceiling of Palazzo dei Diamanti with scenes of the "Gods of Olympus."[3] The following years, 1593–94, the Carracci were commissioned to paint frescoes of New Testament scenes and figures in three rooms of the Palazzo Sampieri-Talon in Bologna.

The popularity of the Carracci's frescoes at these Italian palaces (particularly the paintings at the Palazzo Magnani) caught the attention of another noble family, the Farnese. The Duke of Parma and Piacenza, Ranuccio VI, and his brother, Cardinal Odoardo approached the Carracci in 1593 and asked them to come to Rome to decorate the Palazzo Farnese. In 1594 Annibale and Agostino went to Rome while Ludovico stayed in Bologna. “This summons signaled the end of the joint Carracci studio.”[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Carracci". Collins English Dictionary. HarperCollins. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Carracci" (US) and "Carracci". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Van Tuyll van Serooskerken, C. "Carracci". Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e Robertson, Clare (2008). The Invention of Annibale Carracci. Milan: Silvana Editoriale Spa.
  5. ^ a b c d Boschloo, A. W. A. (1974). Annibale Carracci in Bologna. New York: The Hague (Government Publishing Office).
  6. ^ Bellori, Giovanni Pietro (1968). The Lives of Annibale and Agostino Carracci. University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press.
  7. ^ Brigstocke, Hugh. "Carracci Family". The Oxford Companion to Western Art, Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  8. ^ Feigenbaum, Gail (2004). "Carracci Family". Gale Virtual Reference Library. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 393–395. Retrieved 24 September 2013.

Further reading[edit]

General Texts

  • 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
  • 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, and 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'École 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.