National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS
The Drawings of Annibale Carracci

  

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cat. 60
Seated Ignudo Looking Upward
1598-1599; black chalk heightened with white on gray-blue paper, laid down
495 x 384 (19 1/2 x 15 1/8)
Inscribed in pen and brown ink at lower right with Crozat's number: 33
Musée du Louvre, Département des Arts Graphiques, Paris

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fig. 1.  Seated Ignudo, 1599-1601, Palazzo Farnese, Rome
One of the most celebrated examples of Annibale's draftsmanship is this large study for the ignudo at the right of the Apollo and Marsyas medallion (fig. 1). It glows with a light that glides over the surface so that the patches of hatching seem to float in response to changing light conditions. Annibale worked out the problem of modeling and shading this area with particular care, and strengthened the silhouette of the figure with heavier chalk lines to enhance the sense of projection from the background.

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.

fig. 2.  Dying Alexander, © Rijksmuseum - Stichting, Amsterdam
Several differences between the drawing and the fresco can be noted. The most obvious one is the lowering of the left arm, which in the fresco hugs the body with the hand resting on the shoulder. The right leg in the drawing is extended, but bent sharply in the fresco so that only the knee is visible. In the drawing the face appears to bear the stamp of an individual model with strong features and thick lips, but in the fresco Annibale broadened the face, idealized the features, and added abundant curls. A drawing ascribed to Annibale in Amsterdam after the ancient bust of the Dying Alexander has been proposed as the model for these modifications (fig. 2). The thick curls and tendrils caressing the ears in the statue are quite similar to those in the fresco.3 There, Annibale also raised the position of the proper right eyebrow, and possibly the left as well, creating a heavier, bolder eye socket that also recalls the jutting, troubled brow of the Alexander.

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.

Gail Feigenbaum

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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.

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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

expanded references