Annibale Carracci, Bologna 1560 - 1609 Rome (ARCHIVED)

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Annibale Carracci, Bologna 1560 - 1609 Rome (ARCHIVED)

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A Triton, circa 1599

Blackchalk heightened with white on grey-blue paper, 40.6 x 24.1 cm

This drawing is a study for the celebrated painted ceiling of the gallery in the Palazzo Farnese, Rome. In 1595 two Bolognese painters, Annibale Caracci and his elder brother Agostino, were commissioned to decorate the room. Of the two, Annibale was the more gifted and the one entrusted with the overall responsibility for the work. The gallery’s high barrel-vaulted ceiling was completely frescoed with mythological scenes, each framed within a complex illusionistic scheme of architecture and sculpted ornament. To a large extent it was painted by Annibale himself. The ceiling was the artist’s masterpiece and remains among the great monuments of Rome.

One of the mythological scenes definitely assigned to Agostino was a subject sometimes identified as Glaucus and Scylla. It is clear from his cartoon at the National Gallery, London, that his design contains many deliberate ‘quotations’ from Raphael’s Triumph of Galatea. However, Agostino’s triton blowing shell-trumpet, to the right of the National Gallery’s cartoon, evidently did not satisfy Annibale. In a powerful chalk drawing he transformed the pose; the body twists in an energetic movement with both hands raised to grasp the shell. This more dynamic pose was incorporated in Agostino’s designed appears in the ceiling itself. The drawing provides valuable evidence of the way in which Annibale controlled the project in every detail.

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