Carlo Cignani, Italian, about 1670–1680, Oil on canvas, 39 x 39 in. (99.1 x 99.1 cm). Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Photo © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Photographer: H.-P. Klut
This exhibition tells the extraordinary story of a small group of artists who changed the course of art history. In the decades after the deaths of the great Renaissance masters, such as Raphael and Michelangelo, the art of painting was thought to have gone into steep decline. But then, in the late 16th century, the Carracci family of painters from Bologna burst onto the scene with tremendous energy and vitality, raising art to new heights. Their heroic achievement set standards that were to remain authoritative for more than 200 years. Here a selection of key works by the Carracci and several generations of their pupils and followers brings this artistic triumph to life. For them, the visible world became their principal source of inspiration, and nature was their teacher. Painting was about to enter a new era of creativity and lavish patronage, resulting in the glories of the Baroque age.
This exhibition has been co-organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Twenty-seven of the paintings in this exhibition have been generously lent by the museum in Dresden, one of the world's premier collections of old master paintings. Most of these works have never been seen before in North America.
Annibale Carracci, Italian, 1588, Oil on canvas, 151 3/16 x 100 3/8 in. (384 x 255 cm). Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Annibale Carracci, Italian, 1593–1594, Oil on canvas , 30 5/16 x 25 3/16 in. (77 x 64 cm). Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
This exhibition includes portraits by four of the greatest Bolognese artists—Annibale and Agostino Carracci, Guido Reni, and Guercino. None of them specialized in portraits, yet they possessed the gift of imbuing their works with an acute psychological insight and arresting authenticity that other painters of their day could rarely match. The young Annibale Carracci's skill at portraiture came in handy when he served as his own police sketch artist: he was so successful at recording the faces of some thieves who had attempted to rob him and his father that the men were soon caught and punished.
This portrait by Annibale Carracci depicts a family friend. Mascheroni is elegantly placed within the picture plane; the soberly dressed lute player has been caught at practice, perhaps even writing a score (a quill pen and sheet of music rest on the table in the foreground). Interrupted, he acknowledges the viewer's presence with an attentive but imperious gaze.
Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri), Italian, about 1615, Oil on canvas, 34 7/16 x 27 15/16 in. (87.5 x 71 cm). Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden