Those who are not conversant in works of art are often surprised at the high value set by connoisseurs on drawings which appear careless, and in every respect unfinished; but they are truly valuable... they give the idea of a whole.
- Sir Joshua Reynolds
We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.
- Anais Nin


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Annibale Carracci’s Book of Portraiture (?)

Posted by Charley Parker at 9:00 pm

Annibale Carracci's Book of Portraiture
I have to admit I’m not quite sure what this is. I came across it from a link somewhere (and have unfortunately forgotten the connection), and bookmarked it under “cool drawing resource”.

Carracci was a 16th Century Italian master renowned for his beautiful frescos and paintings, and credited with inventing caricature in the modern sense. It is his drawings I have always noticed, though; they stand out even among other great masters of the time.

The pieces on this site are from a book that looks like it may be a drawing manual based on Carracci’s drawings, featuring both light outline drawings and finished renderings, presumably by a later French artist, of faces, facial features, hands, feet and other items related to drawing people.

Though not as beautiful as Carracci’s delicate and subtle drawings in red chalk, these engravings are particularly interesting for the contrast between the lightly rendered and fully rendered versions, and the instructive array of eyes, ears, mouths and other features. It should be as useful to artists today as it was 400 years ago.

8 comments for Annibale Carracci’s Book of Portraiture (?) »

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  1. Comment by Laura
    Sunday, December 31, 2006 @ 7:50 am

    This is a wonderful source! Thank you so much for sharing this and all that you do throughout the year, Charley. I just realized I haven’t added your link to my Arty Blogs list, but will do so immediately. Doesn’t that bottom lefthand drawing remind you of the lines and pov and shapes of faces in Japanese prints, and therefore, of course, of some by Picasso and Matisse and others influenced by the Japanese? Part of my plans for 2007 include a faces project, so this site you’ve given will be very, very helpful. Happy New Year!

  2. Comment by raymond
    Sunday, December 31, 2006 @ 2:21 pm

    I don’t want to sound picky, but… it’s Annibale ^_^;

  3. Comment by Charley Parker
    Sunday, December 31, 2006 @ 2:17 pm


    Thanks for the comments, link and thoughts on the faces. I’m not sure when Japanese prints first made their way to Italy, but it’s an interesting similarlty, whether by actual influence or coincidence.

  4. Comment by Charley Parker
    Sunday, December 31, 2006 @ 3:18 pm


    Picky is good when it comes to keeping my typos under control. I’ve revised the post. Thanks.

  5. Comment by Oldprints
    Tuesday, March 27, 2007 @ 4:18 pm

    Judging from the inscription at the lower right, this nice engraving probably was taken from “Elementi del disegno di A. C” (in French: “Livre de portraiture”), engraved by François de Poilly (1622-1693) after Carracci. It indeed served as an engraving or drawing manual for portraits, depicting both the outline and the fully engraved portrait. Similar angravings and etchings are also known form later artists, e.g. Gilles Demarteau in the 18th century. Both François and his younger brother Nicolas (1626-1690) were French portrait engravers active in the 17th century.

  6. Comment by peacay
    Monday, April 30, 2007 @ 5:50 am

    de Poilly link. I noted in some searching around (the BMLisieaux book uses the spelling ‘Carrache’) that the drawings that made up this book are probably preparatory studies from the Palazzo Farnese project (I’m going on snips in the google results at paysites). As with a lot of particuarly earlier work by Carracci, there’s likely a fair chance that some of the studies were produced by Anibale’s brothers.

    I’m thankful for Oldprints for the fill-in. I came across this book/site early last year and had just returned for a book I’m researching. Cheers.

  7. Comment by Sam P
    Friday, July 4, 2008 @ 11:02 pm

    Superb. I am thrilled to have happened across this. Im an art student and VERy interested in Caracci so this is a real treat. Grazzi!!

  8. Comment by REBECCA REYES
    Sunday, October 25, 2009 @ 8:35 pm

    I am very interested in Carracci’s artwork, and i would like to know if there is any evidence that proves Annibale Carracci as the first one to start modern caricature?

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