Annibale Carracci, An Angel Playing a Violin, a drawing

Italy, around AD 1585

Preparatory sketch for the Baptism of Christ in San Gregorio, Bologna

This musical angel drawn in red chalk is a study for a figure in the altarpiece of the Baptism of Christ, painted in 1585 for the church of S. Gregorio, Bologna. The angel is in the upper part of the altarpiece, and to heighten the illusionism the figure is shown foreshortened. The observation of the soft shadows modelling the flesh confirm that Carracci (1560-1609) drew this from life. It also suggests his study of the work of the artist Correggio in Parma (1520-30), whose figures were famous for their soft fleshy tones and, in his large scale frescoes, for their bold foreshortening. The boy grips the violin in his left hand while in his right is only a faint sketch of a bow. His wings are indicated on his back in only a few long lines.

Annibale and his artist brother Agostino and cousin Ludovico altered the course of drawing and painting in late sixteenth-century Italy away from the artificial and rhetorical Mannerist style. They founded an art academy in Bologna where students both drew from life and studied the works of artists of the High Renaissance such as Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Correggio. Annibale left for Rome in 1595 where he worked on the illusionistic fresco decorations of the ceiling of the gallery of the Farnese Palace, perhaps his greatest work.

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More information


N. Turner, Italian drawings in the Depa-4 (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

M. Royalton-Kisch, H. Chapman and S. Coppel, Old Master drawings from the M, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)


Height: 164.000 mm
Width: 200.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1895-9-15-723



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