CARRACCI, Agostino

CARRACCI, Agostino
(CARRACCI Ludovico (1555-1619), Agostino (1557­1602), and Annibale (1560-1609)
The Carracci are credited with restoring painting from the corrupt style of the Mannerists to the heights once achieved by the great Renaissance masters, es­pecially Raphael.* They trained some of the leading Italian baroque painters, like Domenichino and Guido Reni, who then disseminated the Carracci's ideas throughout Italy. As a result, by the late 1620s theirs became the favored style among artists and patrons.
The brothers Agostino and Annibale and their cousin Ludovico were born in Bologna to a tailor and a butcher, respectively. Ludovico trained with the Man­nerist Prospero Fontana, Agostino with Bartolomeo Passerotti of the same school, and Annibale seems to have received his training from Ludovico. In 1582, dissatisfied with the state of painting, the Carracci opened a private acad­emy. Students from other shops began to attend because the Carracci academy offered a more progressive learning environment. Here they were provided with a forum where new ideas could be exchanged. Anatomy lessons were given by a trained doctor, and competitions and prizes were also part of the curriculum. Students were encouraged to draw from nature and participate in pictorial games from which Annibale developed the art of caricature.
In Bologna the Carracci collaborated on three fresco cycles: the Palazzo Fava completed in 1584, the Palazzo Magnani in 1590, and the Palazzo Sampieri in 1594. In these years the Carracci also created some of the most appealing al-tarpieces of the period, like the San Ludovico Altarpiece painted by Annibale around 1589, the Bargellini Madonna of 1588 and the Cento Madonna of 1591 created by Ludovico, and The Last Communion of St. Jerome of around 1592, Agostino's most celebrated work. These altarpieces, with their sense of imme­diacy and figures that appeal to the viewer, visually and emotionally, were well suited for the agenda of the Counter-Reformation.
In 1582 Archbishop Paleotti of Bologna wrote Intorno alle imagini sacre e profanei (On Sacred and Profane Paintings) dealing with appropriate subjects in religious art. Following the prescriptions of the Council of Trent, Paleotti criticized the ambiguity of subject and style in Mannerist paintings and called instead for works that were easily understood by the viewer and inspired piety and devotion. The Carracci were the first in Bologna to meet these demands with their altarpieces.
In 1595 Annibale left for Rome to work for Odoardo Farnese at the Farnese Palace. Agostino and Ludovico remained in Bologna and continued to manage the academy. From 1597 to 1608 Annibale painted the crowning glory of his career, the Farnese Ceiling. In 1597 Agostino joined him in Rome and assisted him on this project. Cephalus and Aurora and Galatea are usually attributed to him. In 1600 Agostino had a falling-out with Annibale and left for Parma to work for Duke Ranuccio Farnese. He died prematurely in 1602. Three years later Annibale suffered a mental breakdown and died in 1609. Ludovico lived until 1619, until which time he remained active as a painter and teacher in Bologna.
The Carracci's students—Reni, Domenichino, Giovanni Lanfranco, Francesco Albani, and Sisto Badalocchio—followed Annibale to Rome and worked as his assistants. After Annibale's death, they developed careers of their own and car­ried on their teachers' legacy. Because of this, the Carracci style remained pop­ular until the end of the seventeenth century and even beyond.
A.W.A. Boschloo, Annibale Carracci in Bologna, 1974.
National Gallery of Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Age ofCorreggio and the
Carracci, 1986. D. Posner, Annibale Carracci, 1971.
Lilian H. Zirpolo

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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