CARRACCI, Annibale
(b. 1560, Bologna, d. 1609, Roma)

The Laughing Youth

Oil on paper
Galleria Borghese, Rome

Capturing a moment of laughter in painting is not an easy task, but the young Annibale Carracci succeeds in his sketchy portrait of a Laughing Youth, dating from circa 1583. Though this is a small work its spontaneity is extraordinarily modern and anticipates the portraits by Bernini and Velázquez fifty years later. Carraci's interest in caricature is well known, but here he seeks to capture the boy's expression as it is in real life. This is a portrait of an actor, as can be seen from the hat, which was used for the Bolognese mask of the `doctor'. Its spontaneity is enhanced by the strong square cut of the bust and the charcoal lines and brush-strokes, which reflect the speed of execution.