Annibale Carracci The Farnese ceiling- 1597-1601
depicting the Loves of the Gods, ceiling frescoes in the Gallery,
Palazzo Farnese, Rome.
Venus and Anchises (detail)
|Annibale Carracci |
Farnese Gallery Form: The gallery of the palace is sixty-six feet long and twenty-one feet wide. The vaulted ceilings reach thirty-two feet in height. Its dual function was to hold receptions and display statues which were part of the Farnese collection. (now held in Naples)
Iconography: Overtly the ceiling deals with humanistic and neoclassical scenes. Since the Cardinal Farnese commissioned the ceiling to celebrate the wedding of his brother, the pagan theme, love of the gods at first seems appropriate, however, the scenes are often profane, hedonistic, and erotic and therefore almost a rather odd choice of subject material for a cardinal. All scenes are taken from classical mythology and strongly illustrate the power of love. None of the scenes are linked to form a continuous narrative though they all echo and respond to each other in their form and idea.
Context: Annibale, his brother Agostino, and their cousin Lodovico were Bolognese artists who designated their studio in a teaching academy. Their aim was to combine the best elements of all the previous masters and start a classical revival. Annibale was the major artist among the three--his fame resting on the decorations of the gallery of the Palazzo Farnese in Rome.
In a way, the Carracci family was making the equivalent of today's interior design companies or even a film production company. One of the things they were attempting to do was to find and create a bigger market for their work and so, you will see that over all the Carracci worked with a variety of styles, palettes and themes.
Venus and Anchises
Form: The color is strong and clear. Surrounding the couple are illusionistic stone statues resembling classical Atlas figures. These trompe l’oeil figures and busts surrounding the painting are known as “terms.” They are both classical architectural ornaments.
Iconography: Whenever you see someone's leg thrown over another's, there is an implication of sexuality. In his book, The Sexuality of Christ, Leo Steinberg refers to this as the “slung leg theory.” The union of Venus and Anchises resulted in the birth of Aeneas, the founder of Rome. This is indicated on the footstool containing a quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid.
Part of the iconography of these images is a reference to both the tradition of studying classic or "antique" works as a guide to making better art and the ceiling overall is a "tongue in cheek" reference to Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. However, in this case, the subject matter of the ceiling and scenes are not biblical and since they are so "sexy" in nature, they are also less than classic or platonic.
Context: Virgil modeled his book, the Aeneid on Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad. The Aenied’s protagonist is Aeneas. Like Homer’s Achilles, Aeneas was born of a mortal man (Anchises) and goddess (Venus). Their union is featured in this fresco. It is believed that Aeneas was the founder of Rome and that Julius Caesar and Augustus are his descendants.
written by Annette Abbott edited by Kenney Mencher
Annibale Carracci, Self Portrait 1597
|Form: This self portrait incorporates a low key or earth toned palette combined with a very close point of view. Annibale demonstrates a good mastery of the human face as well as the depiction of light and shadow across it which is called chiaroscuro (the play of light and shadow or shading) to create realism in this work. According to the Brittanica, chiaroscuro (from Italian chiaro, "light"; scuro, "dark"), which is technique employed in the visual arts to represent light and shadow as they define three-dimensional objects. Carracci also uses an intense spotlight on his face while the rest of the picture plane is murky surrounding him. This is called tenebrism and it is a way of creating a focus on a particular element in a work and also gives the work a sense of heightened drama. |
The painting also feels like an immediate kind of "snapshot" of Carracci. Carracci seems to be looking directly at you but what he is really doing is looking directly into a mirror and painting directly from observation. Since this is the case, Carracci was probably painting without using any previous studies or drawings. This is called ala prima-(in the first) which means painting directly from observation onto canvas.
Iconography and Context: One of the skills that most painters needed to develop during the Renaissance period was the ability to paint portraits and accurate likenesses. Often this skill was developed by painting with a the only model that one might have available which is one's self. Obviously, since there are others in this image, Carracci could have had one of his assistants model for him so why then did he paint a self portrait?
The answer probably lies in the basic premise of the Renaissance man. The humanistic and platonic idea of perfectibility gave rise to self reflection and observation. A portrait then is not just about the immediate appearance but also it is a symbol of the person. In this image we see that Carracci is studying himself and also demonstrating his ability to create a strong psychological likeness as well a physical likeness.
Carracci Annibale Flight to Egypt 1604 Oil on canvas Galleria Doria Pamphili, Rome
Robert Campin (the Master of Flemalle) Merode Altarpiece c. 1425
The Merode Altarpiece shares many of the same qualities with Carracci's Flight to Egypt.
How might Campin's work be a schema for it?
|Form: In contrast to the vivid colours of the frescoes of the Farnese Gallery, Carracci uses a low-key palette in his Flight into Egypt. The earth tones of the landscape are employed to guide the viewer to gaze at the main characters at the front of the picture plane. Carracci thought that Nature was an important element in painting and this is reflected most through his landscapes. Many of the landscape scenes which he painted in Rome consisted of this classical landscape formula: a vista of recessing diagonal lines containing castles, trees, winding rivers and hilltop towns. Iconography: This is a genre scene and a pastoral or arcadian setting of sorts. Carracci incorporates elements of the classic arcadian scene with the genre elements that are meant to get the viewer to feel as if they might be able to identify with the principle characters in the scene. We only know that this is not a simple landscape scene after noticing the halos on the figures and reading the title. |
After this then, we are expected to look for some sort of submerged symbolism. The shepherd with his sheep in the middle of the picture plane represents Jesus, the Shepherd of humankind. The gray clouds in the sky may indicate the “storm” taking place at that time. The peaceful boat, which delivered them to safety to the other side of the river, is symbolic of life. White birds (doves?) are also indicative of either the Holy Spirit or of peace.
Context: This painting refers to the biblical story from Matthew 2: 1-21. After hearing that another “king” had been born in Bethlehem, Herod orders all male children under the age of two to be killed in order to ensure his continual reign. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and instructs him to leave Bethlehem immediately with Mary and Jesus and go to Egypt where they all will be safe.
written by Annette Abbott
ar.ca.di.an adj, often cap (1589) 1: idyllically pastoral; esp: idyllically innocent, simple, or untroubled 2 a: of or relating to Arcadia or the Arcadians b: of or relating to Arcadian Ar.ca.di.an n (1590) 1 often not cap: a person who lives a simple quiet life 2: a native or inhabitant of Arcadia 3: the dialect of ancient Greek used in Arcadia According to the Brittanica,
Modern Greek ARKADHÍA, mountainous region of the central Peloponnesus of ancient Greece. The pastoral character of Arcadian life together with its isolation partially explains why it was represented as a paradise in Greek and Roman bucolic poetry and in the literature of the Renaissance. The region is not exactly coextensive with the present-day nomós (department) of Arkadhía, which extends on the east to the Gulf of Argolis. The capital of the nomos is Trípolis.
genre n [F, fr. MF, kind, gender--more at gender] (1770) 1: a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content 2: kind, sort 3: painting that depicts scenes or events from everyday life usu. realistically he.do.nism n [Gk hedone pleasure; akin to Gk hedys sweet--more at sweet] (1856) 1: the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life 2: a way of life based on or suggesting the principles of hedonism -- he.do.nist n -- he.do.nis.tic adj -- he.do.nis.ti.cal.ly adv
neo.clas.sic or neo.clas.si.cal adj (1877): of, relating to, or constituting a revival or adaptation of the classical esp. in literature, music, art, or architecture -- neo.clas.si.cism n -- neo.clas.si.cist n or adj
pas.to.ral adj [ME, fr. L pastoralis, fr. pastor herdsman] (15c) 1 a (1): of, relating to, or composed of shepherds or herdsmen (2): devoted to or based on livestock raising b: of or relating to the countryside: not urban c: portraying or expressive of the life of shepherds or country people esp. in an idealized and conventionalized manner <~ poetry> d: pleasingly peaceful and innocent: idyllic 2 a: of or relating to spiritual care or guidance esp. of a congregation b: of or relating to the pastor of a church -- pas.to.ral.ly adv -- pas.to.ral.ness n ²pastoral n (1584) 1 a: a literary work (as a poem or play) dealing with shepherds or rural life in a usu. artificial manner and typically drawing a contrast between the innocence and serenity of the simple life and the misery and corruption of city and esp. court life b: pastoral poetry or drama c: a rural picture or scene d: pastorale 1b 2: crosier 1 3: a letter of a pastor to his charge: as a: a letter addressed by a bishop to his diocese b: a letter of the house of bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church to be read in each parish
ten.e.brism n, often cap [L tenebrae darkness] (1954): a style of painting esp. associated with the Italian painter Caravaggio and his followers in which most of the figures are engulfed in shadow but some are dramatically illuminated by a concentrated beam of light usu. from an identifiable source -- ten.e.brist n or adj, often cap
trompe l’oeil - (French: "deceive the eye"), in painting, the representation of an object with such verisimilitude as to deceive the viewer concerning the material reality of the object. This idea appealed to the ancient Greeks who were newly emancipated from the conventional stylizations of earlier art. Zeuxis, for example, reportedly painted such realistic grapes that birds tried to eat them. The technique was also popular with Roman muralists. Although trompe l’oeil never achieved the status of a major artistic aim, from the early Renaissance on, European painters occasionally fostered illusionism by painting false frames out of which the contents of a still life or portrait appeared to spill, or by creating window-like images suggesting actual openings in the wall or ceiling. (Brittanica)