in Features | 13 SEP 16
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Issue 3

Telling Tales: Baroque Bologna

From Ancient Egypt to Baroque Bologna to avant-garde Moscow, the works at Frieze Masters open up a world of stories

in Features | 13 SEP 16

An Old Master's newly discovered study

Lampronti Gallery, B3

Annibale Carracci, Head study of a bearded old man, c.1539, oil on paper prepared with brown paint, laid down on canvas, 41×29 cm

This previously unknown and unpublished work is from the oeuvre of the pre-eminent Annibale Carracci, who with his brother Agostino and cousin Ludovico established the Bolognese Academy, and completed the acclaimed frescoes in Rome’s Palazzo Farnese. Rejecting the artificiality of Mannerist painting and championing a return to nature, the Carraccis studied the northern Italian painters of the Renaissance, especially Correggio, Titian and Veronese.

This study with its painterly technique evokes a sense of immediacy and the palpability of the sitter. Carracci captured the head with a fascinating liveliness. Most unusually, it is executed on a sheet of paper laid on canvas. It seems to have been extracted from an account book, with the date ‘1539’ distinctly legible. Such indications of the private nature of the work suggest that Carracci intended it for his own purpose, without having received any specific commission. The artist himself said: ‘The use of paper ... allows for greater swiftness and economy, as well as an impression of particular brilliance’. The idea was to create a truly ‘living’ portrait. Such was the esteem in which his painterly achievement was held, Carracci was buried, upon his death, in Rome’s Pantheon, near to the tomb of Raphael.

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