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Annibale's point of departure seems to have been the living model seated on a draped bench in the studio. Posing the model above eye level, Annibale clarified the articulation of the interior musculature as well as the contours of a difficult foreshortening. It has been argued that Annibale dispensed entirely with the model in this drawing and others like it, for he has articulated the musculature of the rib cage and upper body as if the figure were in tension.1 Yet in studying the drawings that can be ascribed to Annibale with certainty, it appears that in those for the Farnese Gallery he consistently had recourse to the flesh-and-blood model,2 however much that contact with nature would be transformed in the evolution of his concept. His profound and reflective powers of conceptualization enabled him to assimilate a living model to the classical ideal. An ordinary figure is thereby endowed with a clarity and authority that transcends an imperfect model, yet the breath of life, the feeling for a warm, pliant, moving being remains. This perfect equilibrium of nature and idealization was, it is important to recognize, an artificial construction, and one that was fleeting. By the time he put the last strokes on the ceiling frescoes, the balance had shifted toward a new and austere purity and abstraction.
The elements of naturalism that survive from the model, the graceful
assimilation of human physique to a heroic antique ideal, the astonishing
command of a figure rendered in space, and the rhythmic coordination of
modeling with the fall of light and shade impart a bold life and force to
this drawing that had not been achieved by any of Annibale's predecessors.
1. Goldstein 1988, 108.
2. Goldstein argues that Annibale dispensed with the model in many of the Farnese studies. While he is right to point out the error of assuming that virtually all Carracci nudes are life studies, his attributions (particularly of the earlier drawings) and the principles about Carracci methodology that he extrapolates from his examples have been challenged. See, especially, reviews by De Grazia 1989, 866-868, Dempsey 1989b, and Perini 1991, 203-204; also Weston-Lewis 1992, 310, n. 31, and Feigenbaum 1993b, especially 66.
3. Weston-Lewis 1992, 299. The Dying Alexander, now in the Uffizi, Florence, was at the time in the Medici collection, for which see Haskell and Penny 1981, 134-136, and would have been available for Annibale to study if he visited the city, which is more than likely.
Francesco Angeloni; Pierre Mignard; Pierre Crozat (sale, Paris, 10 April- 13 May 1741, part of nos. 462-472); Pierre-Jean Mariette; French royal collection; Musée du Louvre (Lugt 1899 and 2207), inv. 7325
Paris 1866, no. 167; Paris 1927, 15, no. 9; Bologna 1956, no. 191, pl. 88; Paris 1961, no. 83; Vatican 1990, no. 42
Meder and Stix 1923, 410, pl. 168; Bodmer 1933-1934, 63-64, pl. 59; Wittkower 1952, 139, under no. 310; Martin 1965, no. 99, 264; Schilling and Blunt 1971, 64; De Tolnay 1972, no. 103, pl. 103; Goldstein 1988, 108-109, 182-183, 185, 216, n. 33; Rangoni 1991, no. 26; Weston-Lewis 1992, 299 and n. 56, fig. 29