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Agostino Carracci

An Italian painter, engraver, and etcher, b. at Bologna, 16 August, 1557; d. at Parma, 22 March, 1602. The son of Antonio Carracci, a tailor, he was nephew of Lodovico and brother of Annibale. He began his art life as a goldsmith; but, urged by his uncle, the youth abandoned plastic for graphic art, and studied painting, first with Fontana, who had been Lodovico's master, and later with Passerotti. The fame of Correggio's masterpieces drew Agostino to Parma, and afterwards, accompanied by Annibale, he made a long sojourn in Venice, where he became a distinguished engraver under the celebrated Cort. In 1589 he and his brother returned to Bologna and with Lodovico started the "School of the Carracci" (see below, LODOVICO), in which he taught while working devotedly at painting. In his native town is his masterpiece, "The Last Communion of St. Jerome", a beautiful work, showing Correggio's influence. Agostino helped in the decoration of nearly every great palace in Bologna, and his poetic imagination was of great avail when with the matter-of- fact Annibale he assisted in the decoration of the Farnese Palace in Rome. He was a poet, and an interesting sonnet of his tells the students of the "Academy" what parts to choose from each school of painting and from the masters of the past in order to attain perfection. In 1600 Annibale and Agostino had a disagreement, and the latter left for Parma, where for the rest of his life he painted for the duke. Agostino was a master of engraving: he introduced what is called "the large style", and the lines of his plates were broadly and boldly laid. His influence in the art of engraving was felt far beyond the bounds of Italy, and his technic with the graver was widely imitated. His plates were freely and beautifully executed, there is an admirable expression on all his faces, and the execution of the hands and feet is marvellous. In addition to his masterpiece, mention may be made of: "St Francis receiving the Stigmata" (Vienna); "Triumph of Galatea" (London). Among his numerous plates the best and most celebrated are: "Antonio Carracci" (his father); "Tiziano Vocelli"; "The Repose in Egypt".

Annibale Carracci

Painter, etcher and engraver, brother of Agostino, b. at Bologna, 3 November, 1560; d. in Rome, 15 July, 1609. The boy's father, after much persuasion by Lodovico an uncle, was induced to let Annibale study painting instead of learning the trade of tailor, and Lodovico became his first teacher. After a visit to Parma and a study of the masters in that city, Annibale accompanied his brother Agostino to Venice and worked with him there. He returned to Bologna in 1589, and with his uncle and brother opened the Academy of the Incamminati or Desiderosi, called later the "School of the Eclectics" and the "School of the Carracci", whose object was to "revive" art. In 1600 Annibale went to Rome, whither Cardinal Odoardo Farnese had invited him, to decorate the splendid Farnese Palace. This was his greatest achievement, and up to and through Sir Joshua Reynolds's time Annibale was ranked with Raphael. Poussin says of the Farnese decorations, "in them he surpassed every artist who preceded him". Agostino assisted him in this work but left before a year was over, either from Annibale's jealousy, as some assert, or because of the latter's quarrelsome disposition. In any event, Annibale stands as the most distinguished of the five Carracci, and in perfection of drawing, delicacy of colour, and grace in modelling closely approaches the old masters. "The Three Maries" is his finest easel picture, and both in feeling and handling is beautiful and impressive. Although a founder of the Desiderosi, his landscapes possess great charm even as backgrounds, and, what was unusual then, he painted landscapes where figures were but accessories, and also worked in genre. His etchings and engravings, however, are much inferior to his paintings, and, compared with Agostino's work with the graver, conventional and amateurish. When Annibale died, his nephew Antonio, to whom he was benefactor, teacher, and friend, gave him a splendid burial in the Pantheon. Among his principal paintings are: "The Three Maries" (Castle Howard, England); "Holy Family" (Berlin); "Portrait of Himself" (Florence); "La Vierge aux Cerises" (Paris); "Pietà" (St. Petersburg). Of his engraved and etched plates the best is: "The Dead Christ in the Lap of the Virgin", called the "Caprarola Christ".

Antonio Marziale Carracci

An Italian painter, the natural son of Agostino Carracci, b. in Venice, 1583; d. in Rome, 1618. He began his art studies early and proved an apt scholar. He was taught first by his father, and later and chiefly by his uncle Annibale for whom he developed a deep affection. With Annibale he went to Rome where most of his work was done. Cardinal Tonti employed the talented youth to decorate his chapel, and on its completion he was commissioned to paint the chapel of St. Charles Borromeo, and a fresco in one of the rooms of the pope's palace at Monte Cavallo. His easel pictures were few, and are today exceedingly rare. In 1609, when his uncle and teacher, Annibale, died, he showed his devotion by burying him with great solemnity near the tomb of Raphael. His was an uneventful career. Chief among his works are: "The Flood" (Louvre); "Christ healing a blind man" (Modena); "Lute Player" (Modena).

Francesco Carracci

Painter and engraver, son of Giovanni Antonio Carracci, b. in Bologna, 1595; d. in Rome, 1622. The father was a brother of Agostino and Annibale. Francesco was a youth of great talent and promise. He was taught by Lodovico in the Academy of the Incamminati, but left the school to start one in opposition to his teacher, calling it the "True School of the Carracci". Like the other members of the Carracci family he taught, engraved, and painted. His "Adoration" in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Bologna, is not only his masterpiece but an excellent piece of vigorous painting. The "True School" was not a success, and, his students leaving him, Francesco went to Rome and made another attempt to found an academy, only to fail again. He died in abject poverty. He left a few engravings after the works of Lodovico and Annibale.

Lodovico Carracci

Painter, etcher, engraver, and founder of the "Eclectic School" of painting, b. at Bologna, 21 April, 1555; d. there, 13 November, 1619. He was of humble origin, and his brother Antonio was a tailor by trade. Slow, plodding, but determined, the young Lodovico was advised by his masters, Fontana and Tintoretto, to abandon his chosen career of art, and his fellow-students jeered him, calling him "the ox" on account of his physical and mental characteristics. But neither teachers nor pupils could turn him from the path he had marked out for himself. He travelled throughout Italy to prosecute his studies, and was chiefly influenced by the works of Andrea del Sarto, Titian, and Correggio. He returned to Bologna in 1589 and with Agostino and Annibale, his nephews, opened the Academy degli Desiderosi, "the school of those who regret the past, despise the present, and aspire to a better future". For eleven years these three worked together, and then, the younger men going to Rome, Lodovico remained the sole head of the Academy until his death. The object of the "Eclectics" was to combine in their art Michelangelo's line, Titian's colour, Correggio's chiaroscuro, and Raphael's symmetry and grace. Midway, however, in their successful career, the three Carracci were forced to modify their eclecticism and rely more and more on nature. The fame of the Carracci Academy was great, its influence spread over all Italy, and Lodovico's was a great name—great more on account of the painters he developed than from his own work with the brush. Albani, Guido Remi, Domenichino, Lanfranco, Spada, Tiarini, and Bonzi (Il Gobbo) were among those who attended the school. Lodovico's paintings are pleasing in colour, and exhibit much intelligence and technical skill, but lack spontaneity, originality, and individuality. He was a teacher rather than an artist. His engravings, much more interesting than his other work, are very beautiful; evidently he began his plates by freely and simply etching them and then finished with an elaborate use of the graver. Chief among his works are: "Ecce Homo" (Rome); "Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes" (Berlin); "Virgin and Child" (Paris). Among his etched and engraved plates are the "Holy Family" and "Samson overcoming the Lion".


CROWE AND CAVALCASELLE, History of Painting in Italy (London, 1864); LÜBKE, Gesch. der italienischen Malerei (Stuttgart, 1878); MICHAUD, Biog. Univ.; LANDON, Vies et Œuvres des peintures les plus cèlébres de toutes les écoles (Paris, 1803-25); VASARI, Vite de' piu excellenti pittori, scultori e architetti (Florence, 1849).

About this page

APA citation. Hunt, L. (1908). Carracci. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Hunt, Leigh. "Carracci." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to Fr. John Hilkert, Akron, Ohio.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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