Annibale Carracci

Dates1560 - 1609

"Neither clean nor well-dressed, with his collar askew, his hat jammed on any old way and his unkempt beard, Annibale Carracci seemed to be like an ancient philosopher, absent-minded and alone," wrote an early biographer. A tailor's son, Carracci considered himself a craftsman, not a courtier, but the Romans buried him in the Pantheon beside Raphael.

Along with his older brother Agostino and his cousin Lodovico, Annibale founded the Accademia degli Incamminati (Academy of the Progressives) in Bologna, which focused on naturalism and rejected Mannerism. There they revived the practice of working from life, focusing on the craft of art rather than the elegant life of court painters. The Carracci were tireless observers. Scholars credit Annibale with teaching caricature and helping to revive the process of creating extensive preparatory drawings for paintings.

Between 1597 and 1601, Carracci worked on the gallery ceiling of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, his most important legacy. Conceiving the ceiling as open to the sky, he painted its mythological love scenes as framed easel pictures within an illusionistic framework. After receiving a paltry five hundred lire for this extensive decoration, he suffered a breakdown. A prolific draftsman, Carracci derived his heroic figure style from antique sculpture and Michelangelo and Raphael's art, but he added a richness and buoyancy from his copious studies from life. He originated the "ideal landscape," with figures, buildings, and nature in perfect balance, a nature tamed and ennobled by man's presence.