THE CARRACCI

 

         The pioneers of Baroque monumental painting in Rome were the brothers Agosto and Annibale Carracci and their cousin Ludovico. They all came from Bologna, a city with a long artistic tradition, a heritage of Renaissance masterpieces and a direct cultural connection with the Eternal City. Between 1585 and 1590 the Carracci founded the Academy of the Incamminati, which was to play an important part in the Italian artistic culture of the seventeenth century.

           Annibale (1560—1609) was historically the most significant artist of the Carracci family and artistically the most gifted. At first he was fond of Correggio and Veronese, but later he deve­loped new power under the influence of the antique, and of Michelangelo and Raphael. Annibale Carracci presents a variety of motives and themes. To the exhausted schemes of Man­nerism he opposed a combination of classical beauty and the respect for the real fact.

         In Bologna in the 1580s all three Carracci had been helpful in the formation of a new kind of Renaissance — not a revival of Classical antiquity nor a discovery of the world and of man, but a revival of the Renaissance itself after a long Mannerist inter­lude. The Carracci aimed at a synthesis of the vigour and ma­jesty of Michelangelo, the harmony and grace of Raphael, and the colour of Titian.

         The first major undertaking of Baroque painting in Rome was the gallery of the Palazzo Fornese, painted almost entirety by Annibale Carracci. The frescoes were commissioned by Cardinal Odoardo Farnese. The ceiling frescoes adopted from the Sistine Ceiling such ideas as large scenes, small scenes, seated nudes, simulated marble architecture and both marble and bronze scul­pture. But these were organised according to a new principle in the illusionistic tradition of Mantegna. The simulated architec­ture applied to the barrel vault is «supported» by the simulated sculptural caryatids and youths that flank pictures into the structure. Four additional paintings with gilded frames are made to look as if they had been applied later. The complex layer of forms and illusions comes to a climax in the central scene.

         The subject matter of the Love of the Gods, incompatible with the ecclesiastic status of its patron, veils a deep Christian mea­ning that accounts for the complex organisation and for central climax. The four smaller lateral scenes represent incidents in which the loves of gods for mortals were accepted, the two hori­zontal framed pictures depict episodes in which mortals refused, the two end ones reproduce the love of Cyclops Polyphemus for the nymph Galatea, and the central panel portrays the Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne. This central scene is flanked by Mercu­ry and Paris and by Pan and Selena. The composition in which the chariots of the god and the mortal are borne along in splen­did procession, accompanied by deities and Loves explains the framed pictures and justifies the four unframed lateral scenes. The entire complex structure of eleven scenes symbolises the Triumph of Divine Love. After the Mannerist interlude of public prudery, it was typical of the new Baroque attitude that a cardi­nal could commission a monumental Christian interpretation of ancient erotic myths. It is essential for our understanding of the Baroque that divine love, conceived as the principle at the heart of the universe, should be the motive power that draws together all the elements of the ceiling and resolves all conflicts in an un­foreseeable act of redemption. The painting of the Farnese Gal­lery is a superb creation. The substance and the drive of the Farnese Gallery had a great impact on other ceiling compositions of the seventeenth century, and on Baroque monumental pain­ting in general, especially on the work of Peter Paul Rubens.

        In addition to the principles of ceiling painting, Annibale Carracci excelled in his painting of romantic landscapes as well as historical subjects. He established a new type of landscape with figures in his Landscape with the Flight into Egypt, of about 1603—04. The sacred figures in relation to the vastness of the landscape are tiny. They are on a level with the observer and the landscape is no longer fantastic but based on a real one. The landscape was derived from studies made outdoors but con­structed in the studio. Although a prolific artist Annibale Car­racci painted little later in life. He died at Rome -and was buried in the Pantheon near Raphael.

 

 

Notes

Love of the Gods— «Метаморфозы»

i Landscape with the Flight into Egypt — «Пейзаж с Бегством в Египет»

 

 

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