National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS
The Drawings of Annibale Carracci


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cat. 26
Male Nude Seen from Behind
c. 1593-1594; charcoal heightened with white on gray-blue paper, cut and made up on the left
365 x 208 (14 3/8 x 8 3/16)
Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest, Inv. nr. 1810.

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fig. 1.  The Alms of Saint Roch, 1587/1588-1595, Gemäldegalerie, Dresden
Commissioned in 1587-1588 by the Confraternita di San Rocco for the church of San Prospero in Reggio Emilia, the large painting of The Alms of Saint Roch (fig. 1) was not completed until 1595, at the moment of Annibale's final departure for Rome. Ludovico and Agostino may even have participated, if the letter from Annibale of 8 July 1595, which indicates that the work had not been completed, is to be believed.1 There is no doubt, however, that Annibale was the true author of this composition, which brings the Bolognese period to a close in authoritative fashion.

Few drawings have survived, which is surprising given the number of figures that the artist necessarily studied from studio models. It is probable that numerous studies were made before the definitive composition was worked out, a process that is attested to by drawings that exhibit a striking realism in the description of the attitudes and in certain details of clothing and musculature combined with a manifest desire for synthetic simplification of the faces. Among these sheets, all executed in black chalk, are Seated Man with a Child and A Man Leaning against a Wall, both in the Uffizi,2 A Young Man Lying on a Bed in Christ Church3 -- the last two are on blue paper -- as well as the Head of a Young Man in Profile in Windsor.4 Of all the identified drawings at Oxford, Rotterdam, Paris, and Oslo, it is the exhibited sheet that stands out as the most impressive in the energetic execution and the expression of the light. The effects studied by Annibale through the undulation of the contour line, which is both descriptive and dynamic, and the sfumato of the crumbly black chalk, combined with the heightening in white chalk to express the tension of the muscles, refer more to the drawings of Veronese and Tintoretto than to those of Titian. A remarkable similarity of spirit links this sheet to the study in the Louvre for Saint Catherine,5 which is preparatory for the painting of 1593 in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna, The Madonna and Child with Saints John the Evangelist and Catherine, thus allowing the consideration of a date rather close to 1593-1594.

Quite apart from all the scholarly references, the quiver of life that is felt in even the slightest stroke shows to what heights the study of nature had led Annibale before his installation in Rome. With the slightly later drawings of the Camerino a palpable change would manifest itself, brought about by the daily confrontation with Raphael and antique sculpture.

Catherine Loisel Legrand

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1. Posner 1971, 2: no. 86.

2. Inv. 762 e. (repr. Petrioli Tofani 1987, no. 762 e.); inv. 12370 f. (repr. Florence 1973, no. 39, fig. 29).

3. Inv. 0479. Repr. Oxford and London 1996-1997, no. 61.

4. Inv. 2242. Wittkower 1952, no. 36, describes the paper as brown.

5. Inv. 7310. See Paris 1961, no. 29 (not repr.).

expanded references

A. C. Poggi (Lugt 617); Miklós Esterházy (Lugt 1965); Országos Képtár (National Picture Gallery), 1870 (Lugt 2000); Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest, 1906, inv. 1810

Budapest 1963, no. 100; Vienna 1967, no. 26; Washington and tour 1985, no. 20; Bologna 1989, no. 12

Hoffman 1927, 142, 145-147, fig. 32; Fenyö 1967, 255, no. 26; Johnston 1971, 82, pl. x; Posner 1971, 2: 37, under no. 86, pl. 86d

expanded references