National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS
The Drawings of Annibale Carracci

   previous | next

cat. 50
Head of a Satyr
1597-1598; black chalk heightened with white chalk on gray-blue paper, laid down
381 x 245 (15 x 9 5/8)
Inscribed in pen and brown ink at lower right: anniballe, and numbered by Crozat: 162
Musée du Louvre, Département des Arts Graphiques, Paris

table of contents | images
         


fig. 1.  Pan and Olympos, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Naples

Filling the page is the profile of a satyr, painstakingly rendered in black chalk. Strong, carefully plotted passages of white chalk magnify the impression of the relief and solid mass of the head. It has long been recognized that Annibale drew this satyr after an antique sculpture. His model was the head of Pan in the marble group of Pan and Olympos, then in the Farnese collection (fig. 1).1 Annibale was faithful to the statue, capturing the goatlike muzzle in the protrusion of the nose and upper lip; the broad, flattened nose and slanting nostrils; sloping brow; and the parted lips, thick and sensual. Stout horns spring from the forehead. The virile curls of the satyr's hair and beard, particularly the coarse tufts of mustache, sprout in masses to evoke the carved marble and are remarkably faithful to the prototype.

Annibale surely knew the Pan and Olympos marble, and most likely had made this powerful study of the head before he finalized his designs for Pan and Diana in the Farnese ceiling. If the drawing does not correspond in every detail to the fresco, it is nevertheless close in type and in spirit. Annibale also made a drawing of the entire group.2

Annibale's attraction to the antique was, of course, central to his experience in Rome and crucial to his evolution as an artist. Ancient statuary was readily available for him to study in Rome. He was surrounded by the Farnese's collection of antiquities, one of the best in the city, and artists had easy access to the Vatican collections. By the time he was working on the Gallery, he was steeped in the aesthetics of ancient marbles, and the experience had transformed his style. Yet only a few drawings directly after the antique are known. If this one has long been recognized for what it is, only recently have other examples of such study been proposed, including the Louvre's Head of a Woman (cat. 46).3 Even with a heightened consciousness of the category, it is doubtful that numerous Annibale drawings after ancient statues will emerge. As was the case with his other sources, such as Michelangelo, Annibale tended to privilege the live model over the artistic one. Even while in Bologna he posed models after Michelangelo and the antique rather than working directly from a painting or statue, or he worked from memory, having studied the prototype with his legendary attention.4 He explicitly stated the reasons for this practice, for when he worked directly from other art Annibale was conscious of working at a remove from nature, his true teacher.5

With this in mind, the fidelity to the sculpture in the present sheet seems to ebb slightly. The wavy locks of the beard do not seem so stony, the features appear more mobile and pliant, the expression and general effect are more human than in the statue.

Annibale's ability to pull a solid form out from the plane of the page is unrivaled, and here it emerges with an almost self-conscious force. Throughout the sixteenth century, painters and sculptors had carried on a rivalry as to which practiced the better art. In this long-running argument, known as the paragone or comparison, painters claimed the monopoly on color, sculptors on three dimensions, and so forth. In his ability to render so convincing an illusion of the three-dimensionality of an actual sculpture, Annibale emerges the winner: his virtuosity is the greater for he succeeds as a draftsman without even resorting to the use of color. Notable here is the way Annibale plays with the profile, shifting the outline. Where a profile in a drawing would conventionally call for a line, Annibale created an ambiguous zone, a small area where the profile seems to turn the corner in space. Rather than reading as a line, a border, or an ending, this profile leads to the area beyond, mimicking the way the eye perceives an object in three dimensions.

Gail Feigenbaum

previous | next

1. Martin 1965, 210; Loisel Legrand in Paris 1994, 91-92. On the history of the group see Haskell and Penny 1981, 286.

2. Windsor Castle, Royal Collection, inv. 1784.

3. Weston-Lewis 1992 perceptively treated this subject and suggested several other drawings that are related to antique statuary.

4. An anecdote in which Annibale drew from memory the Laocoön group as his brother expounded on its aesthetic merits is related by Agucchi in his Trattato (reprinted in Mahon 1947, 253-254).

5. See Feigenbaum 1990, 1993b, and Weston-Lewis 1992.

expanded references

Francesco Angeloni; Pierre Mignard; Pierre Crozat (sale, Paris, 10 April-13 May 1741, part of nos. 477-484); Ch-P. de Saint-Morys; confiscated during the French Revolution as émigré property in 1793; placed in the museum in 1796-1797; Musée du Louvre (Lugt 1955), inv. 7193

Paris 1961, no. 39; Paris 1994, no. 58

Bologna 1956, 223; Jaffé 1956a, 398; Muller Hofstede 1962, 87-88, fig. 3; Martin 1965, 210; Schilling and Blunt 1971, 65; Arquié-Bruley, Labbé, and Bicart-Sée 1987, 2: 165

expanded references