(b. 1560, Bologna, d. 1609, Roma)
Galleria Farnese, Palazzo Farnese, Rome
The huge ceiling in the reception room of Palazzo Farnese, painted just as the seventeenth century was beginning, was part of a great cycle of decorative paintings on the theme The Loves of the Gods, which Carracci painted for Cardinal Odoardo Farnese. They are his undoubted masterpieces and were tremendously influential, for two centuries ranking with Michelangelo's work in the Sistine Chapel and Raphael's frescos in the Vatican as the supreme examples of Western painting. Generations of young painters were set to copy it.
During the protracted period it took to complete the frescos, the Palazzo Farnese cycle became a test bed for the Carraccis' revitalized classicism. Annibale Carracci transformed the reception room into a shining collection of classical pictures. In fact, the decoration was not intended to be a single scene, but imitated a collection of framed paintings surrounding the main scene. This was the Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne which fills the centre of the ceiling. The individual pictures are painted with a smiling, serene sense of classical antiquity revisited and reinterpreted through the art of Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and Correggio. Many of the separate currents that had flowed through the Renaissance came together here. They gave life to a new sort of art which was characterized by the supremacy of resplendent and light-hearted decoration, filled with colour and movement.