Previously I wrote of the artwork of a particularly notorious young Baroque artist by the name of Caravaggio, noting something to the effect that while saints were nice, sinners were more interesting. So, having given the devil his due, the saints now demand equal time. Annibale Carracci (pronounced anNIBaly caRACHy) of course was hardly a saint, except perhaps in comparison to Caravaggio.
In any case, artistically, as well as personally, they were pretty much exact opposites. Carracci was brooding and withdrawn while Caravaggio was violent and dramatic. Carracci was of the classical school of painting (a la Michelangelo and Raphael), while Caravaggio was on the cutting edge of the new Baroque movement. Carracci painted mostly frescos while Caravaggio worked exclusively on canvas, though both their work was on a similar scale. Carracci was establishment. Caravaggio was anything but! Carracci painted in a joyous, almost frivolous style while Caravaggio was strikingly dramatic to the point of being "gritty" in his search for naturalism and visceral impact.
Being some 13 years older than Caravaggio, Carracci considered his primary rival for artistic commissions something of a brash, young upstart. Critics, for the most part, saw him in that light as well. Caravaggio suffered in comparison to Carracci because, at the time, canvas painting was something of a poor stepchild to fresco, considered the ultimate in the painter's art. Carracci's major masterpiece, the Farese Palace Gallery was ranked by critics at the time, and up until the 19th century, alongside the Sistine Chapel Ceiling and Raphael's School of Athens.
contributed by Lane, Jim
2 February 1998