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A reclining nude


RCIN 902371

Recto: a drawing of a recumbent male nude, head to right resting on his left hand. Verso: a recumbent nude and unfinished outline of a figure with feet in air. Perhaps two alternative studies for Tithonius in the "Cephalus and Aurora" fresco in the Palazzo Farnese, Rome. Like his brother Agostino and cousin Ludovico, Annibale Carracci began his career in Bologna as a tireless draughtsman, for whom every subject - from the most elevated to the most humble - was worthy of study. The Carracci insisted on drawing from the life as the foundation of artistic practice, and all three made countless studies of heads, draped figures and nudes, both posed and in seemingly casual attitudes. But it was not until Annibale moved from Bologna to Rome in 1595, at the invitation of Cardinal Odoardo Farnese, that his life drawings attained the classical monumentality that was to inspire subsequent generations of artists. Annibale began the decoration of the sculpture gallery in the Palazzo Farnese in 1597. Based on Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel of ninety years earlier, the vault of the Galleria Farnese was the seminal work of the Baroque in Rome, in which Annibale frescoed a fiction of mythological canvases in gilt frames, bronze medallions, stone herms, nude youths, garlands of fruit and leering masks, and putti wrestling before an open sky. Many of Annibale’s life studies for the Galleria survive, mostly in black and white chalks on large sheets of blue paper; there are also a number of drawings in the same technique and style that seem to have been simply exercises, with no direct preparatory function. In several of these the model reclines, allowing the pose to be held for a longer period and Annibale to take his time over the drawing. On the verso of the sheet is another study of a reclining model, drawn over an unfinished outline of a seated nude, leaning back on his left hand with his right foot held in the air, which may have been an abandoned idea for one of the seated nudes painted around the entablature of the Galleria Farnese. No previous artist had made such consistently large studies from the model as Annibale did at this time; this is not a trivial point, for it encouraged an expansiveness and generosity of form that was the key to his achievement in the representation of the human figure. Text adapted from Holbein to Hockney: Drawings from the Royal Collection

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