The Carracci were a Bolognese family of artists that played an instrumental role in bringing forth the art movement known as the Baroque. Brothers Annibale (1560–1609) and Agostino (1557–1602) along with their cousin Ludovico (1555–1619) worked collaboratively on art works and art theories pertaining to the Baroque style.
Annibale Carracci 'Quo Vadis, Domine’ at The National Gallery, London. This incident is not described in the New Testament and is rarely depicted in painting. According to tradition, during the persecutions under Nero, Saint Peter fled from Rome and on the Appian Way encountered a vision of Christ bearing his Cross. In answer to Saint Peter's question 'Lord, where are you going?', Christ replied that he was going to Rome to be crucified a second time. Saint Peter himself then returned to Rome, where he was later martyred. This painting was commissioned by Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, who rewarded the artist with a gold chain. It is recorded as being in the Aldobrandini Collection in 1603.
The Carracci was equally important in their influence on the development of Italian painting as Caravaggio. They were responsible for founding in Bologna and Rome the school which was known first as the Accademia del Naturale and later as the Accademia del Naturale and later as the Academia deli Incamminati, and which at one time conformed to the ideals of the Baroque and the Counter Reformation.
If unlike Caravaggio they hardly exerted revolutionary influences, it must also be remembered that the charge of eclecticism in this school which was the verdict of old-fashioned criticism can no longer be accepted. The Carracci went beyond mere virtuosity to express lively, intimate sentiments, inspired by a genuine, fresh religious faith. Lodovico Carracci certainly did not forget Correggio's Venetian naturalism and sensuality but he gave these qualities the dramatic force and action which marked the dividing line between Baroque and Mannerist painting. Of the three Carracci, Ludovico remained specially close to the spirit of the Counter Reformation. His seriousness, his ever-apparent carefulness, and his emphatic style are all evident in the Madonna of the Scalzi, in the Martyrdom of St Ursula (both in the Pinacoteca, Bologna), and in the Christ and the Canaanite Woman (Brera, Milan) Annibale Carracci first appeared in Rome in I 604, when he started the decoration of the gallery of the Palazzo Farnese, the first important chapter in the history of Baroque painting. Narrative and imagination are the keynotes of his mood, and his poetic feeling has been compared with that of Tasso's Aminta, because of his spontaneous passion for nature. With him, too, the spectacular becomes pastoral. Agostino Carracci, nearest to him in age, was no more than an interpreter: the creator of the grand style of the Palazzo Farnese was Annibale Allegoricalsubjects, such as the war between divine love and earthly love, were simply an excuse for Annibale for imbuing everything with the vigour of nature. Ariadne, Bacchus, Mercury are real creatures, warm and passionate, surrounded by bands of putti who run about on earth and fly in the heavens to symbolise the perpetuity of human life. Of Annibale's paintings, it is sufficient to mention the charming Flight into Egypt (Doria Pamphili Gallery Rome), in which the sacred story takes on human interest in the way the Virgin turns back towards St Joseph, while the buildings in the background, bathed in the light of the setting sun, give way to lush green fields and trees. The influence of the Carracci was enormous, even more widespread than that of Caravaggio, and it was in Emilia above all that the trend con- tinued. Bartolomeo Schedoni renewed the interest in composition, stressing the imitative gestures of the main figures. Guido Reni (1575-1642) presented a much wider variety of interest and output. He was a great portraitist, as in the superb portrait of his mother (Pinacoteca, Bologna but he preferred more ambitious themes. In Hippomenes and Atalanta (Capodimonte Museum, Naples) Baroque painting perfected the shape diagonal composition in the glow of a magic light. After painting what was probably too many devotional subjects during the course of his life, Guido Reni, in his late period, discovered a new mastery, and softened his outlines with delicate touches of light. Domenico Zampieri I 164 I), known as Domenichino, was a great and captivating landscapist, but he introduced a more scholastic note to his altarpieces. Another pupil of Lodovico Carracci, Francesco Barbieri known as Guercino also painted complicated sacred compositions, but showed himself to be a master of decorative work in his Aurora on the ceiling of the Casino Ludovisi in Rome. In the art of Emilia in the 17th century the Bibiena family Ferdinando, Francesco and, in the 18th century, Carlo stands in a class of its own. Scene painters, masters of architectural trompe l'oeil, and inventors of stage machinery, they served the Farnese family at Parma and Piacenza in preparing revels and spectacles.
Source: THE GOLDEN HISTORY OF ART, Gina Pischel, The National Gallery website, Scottish National Gallery website, The Fine Art Museum of San Fransisco website.