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Annibale Carracci
Italian, Bologna, early 1580s
Pen and brown ink
5 5/16 x 4 1/4 in.

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The sad, staring eyes, prominent ears that sit a bit far back on the head, tousled hair, and the long flat nose identify this as Annibale Carracci. He assumed an informal pose, leaning slightly forward with his right elbow extending slightly beyond the frame's bottom and casting a shadow. As he drew himself in the mirror, his right hand was moving, resulting in the tangle of lines representing the left arm. Skeletal beasts with beaked heads and long necks peer down from the upper corners, reminders of mortality, and two beady-eyed dolphins with tails in the air inhabit the bottom corners.

Carracci humorously portrayed himself here as a scruffy, ordinary individual. In a format usually reserved for formal, flattering portraits, he demonstrated his ability to quickly pick out the most important, expressive features. In a display of originality, he leans forward out of the picture frame as if from a window.

Francesco Maria Niccolò Gabburri, who assembled numerous drawn self-portraits and portraits of artists, once owned this sheet. He also owned the Getty Museum's Self-portrait by Gaetano Sabatini, which shares the oval format. This drawing remains laid down on the original Gabburri mount, but it has been cut down drastically.