CARRACCI, Lodovico
(b. 1555, Bologna, d. 1619, Bologna)


The Carracci was a family of Bolognese painters, the brothers Agostino (1557-1602) and Annibale (1560-1609) and their cousin Lodovico (1555-1619), who were prominent figures at the end of the 16th century in the movement against the prevailing Mannerist artificiality of Italian painting.

They worked together early in their careers, and it is not easy to distinguish their shares in, for example, the cycle of frescos in the Palazzo Fava in Bologna (c.1583-84).

Lodovico was by temperament a fairly shy person who never found real success, unlike his cousin Annibale. Apart from traveling when young in the course of his studies and a brief and rather unpleasant stay in Rome, he spent all his life in the cosy atmosphere of Bologna, where most of his work still remains. He nevertheless has to be recognized as the first painter systematically to abandon the late Mannerist style in favour of a new kind of moral and devotional style of painting. By interpreting the suggestions made by Cardinal Paleotti, who had a special interest in the reform of religious art, Lodovico Carracci took an early lead in its renewal. This was arrived at by reassessing nature exactly as it is, even when it appears plain or uninteresting, but without ever resorting to the cerebral ploys used by the last of the Mannerists. To achieve his aim, as well as painting, Lodovico placed great emphasis on teaching. In the 1580s, he and his two cousins Annibale and Agostino opened their "Accademia dei Desiderosi" (The Academy of those who wish to make Progress). This was later renamed "Academia degli Incamminati" (The Academy of those who are making Progress) but later still was known simply as the Carracci Academy. This was responsible for shaping a whole generation of Emilian painters.

Proof of how united the group was came when the three Carracci cousins together painted the frescos in Palazzo Fava. The simplicity of their compositions recalls Federico Barocci's style while the sweetness of their expression is reminiscent of Correggio.

Lodovico left Bologna only for brief periods and directed the Carracci academy by himself after his cousins had gone to Rome. His work is uneven and highly personal. Painterly and expressive considerations always outweigh those of stability and calm Classicism in his work, and at its best there is a passionate and poetic quality indicative of his preference for Tintoretto and Jacopo Bassano. His most fruitful period was 1585-95, but near the end of his career he still produced remarkable paintings of an almost Expressionist force, such as the Christ Crucified above Figures in Limbo (Sta Francesca Romana, Ferrara, 1614).

Lodovico's own sensitivity derived from his deep knowledge of Venetian painting. His style was composed of delicate gestures, bashful looks, and a good deal of narrative drama. Especially in his medium to small pictures this readily became lyrical poetry. Among his most important works we should mention his youthful Annunciation and his noble Madonna dei Bargellini (both in the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna). Later on he painted the frescos in the cloisters of S. Michele in Bosco, near Bologna (1604). After his cousins' deaths he produced some large and rather sad compositions, such as The Funeral of the Madonna in the Parma Galleria Nazionale and the fresco of the Annunciation on the triumphal arch in the Metropolitan church of S. Pietro in Bologna, finished the year he died.