Born in Bologna, Annibale Carracci was surrounded by artists in his family life; going on to collaborate with them as well. With his cousin, Ludovico Carracci (1555 – 1619) and brother, Agostino (1557 – 1602), Annibale helped forge an influential style for the Bolognese School of painting.
This was an almost self-prophesized impact by the family, as they opened a studio in 1582, the Academy of the Incamminati (or Desiderosi), in which Incamminati meant ‘progressive’ academy or ‘to open a new way.’ Nonetheless, the Carracci family, especially Annibale, developed a unique style, born of both the Florentine influence of Raphael and Sarto, as well as the Venetian painters. Their academy went on to be called the School of Carracci, or sometimes the School of the Eclectics.
Collaborating together under the name Carracci, the two brothers and cousin painted frescos in the Palazzo Fava. The pieces, finished between 1583 and 1584, depicted the story of Jason from mythology. Annibale and Agostino also met in Parma to work together, as Annibale traveled to Venice. Returning to Bologna the Carracci family reunited to paint frescos for the Palazzo Magnani in 1585 and then again between 1593 – 1594 on frescos for the Palazzo Sampieri.
Annibale was often considered the more accomplished painter of the Carracci name; due to an individual style the exuded that of the great masters. His detailed drawing, subtlety of color and graceful approach often elevated him into comparison with Raphael. While painting an Altarpiece, Virgin on the Throne with St. John and St. Catherine, with another Bolognese painter, Lucio Massari (1569 – 1633), Annibale also painted his Resurrection of Christ and Assumption for the Bonasoni Chapel before 1593. These pieces started to show his own style, but it was not until Cardinal Odoardo Farnese commissioned him to do a dramatic fresco in the Palazzo Farnese in Rome, that his reputation was solidified. The ceiling, a fresco cycle titled The Loves of the Gods,(created between 1597 – 1608) is often considered the most masterful fresco work of its time and known to be Annibale’s masterpiece.
Annibale’s entire studio collaborated on the fresco, including his brother Agostino. It is unknown why, but Agostino left the project early; with some rumor that it was due to Annibale’s jealousy or their argumentative relationship. Annibale also created impressive landscape pieces, such as Flight to Egypt in 1603 in which the human subjects became accessories to bold landscapes. This style was adopted by Annibale’s pupil Domenico Zampieri (1581 – 1641) of the Bolognese School and later Baroque painters such as Claude Lorrain (1600 – 1682) of France. Annibale Carracci’s legacy carried with it a deep influence from the Italian masters, but also his own touch. He created a number of works throughout his life, including his pieces at the Uffizi Gallery, Venus with a Satyr and Cupids (1592), and A Man with a Monkey. His primary accomplishments were his frescos, but also paintings which now hang throughout museums and galleries in Rome, Florence, Bologna, Paris, St. Petersburg, Madrid, Dresden and Vienna.