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Week 6: Crucifixion

February 24, 2011




Annibale Carracci 1583.

10” x  6’10” Oil on canvas.

Santa Maria della Carità, Bologna.

One of Annibale Carraci’s earliest works and first major altarpiece, this Crucifixion is an example of the naturalism the Carracci sought in their work.  Although not historically accurate, rather a sacra conversazione, the dark clouds surrounding Christ heighten the drama and tension within the scene.

This event is a sacra conversazione because many different saints from different time periods or depicted.  Together, here and now, are Mary, St. Bernard, St. Francis, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Petronius .  Petronius is the patron of Bologna, which can be seen in model form at the saint’s feet, and in the landscape in the background.  This background gives the figures presence in the actual world, even though their common occupancy is physically impossible (Serooskerken).

Carracci used light and shade to achieve a natural dramatic effect.  As aforementioned, the dark clouds add drama to the piece while being a natural occurrence.  St. Francis is seen barefoot, a sign of his humility.  The composition is classically, symmetrically balanced.

The Carracci were influenced by Northern Italian artists who used painterly brush work.  Although simple and following decrees of the Counter Reformation, this painting was criticized by contemporary artists for its lack of artifice and its painterly finish.  Regardless, this altarpiece was successful for Annibale, as he received more commissions after its completion (Serooskerken).

C. van Tuyll van Serooskerken, et al. “Carracci.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 23 Feb. 2011 <;.

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