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Annibale Carracci was known as eclectic because he selected the things he most admired from the great artists before him and fused them into his own work. He was a fine artist in his own right and original enough to do this successfully. His many followers of lesser talent leaned so heavily upon their predecessors that the art of such eclectic painters fell into disrepute and eclecticism became a term of disgrace.
Annibale was the youngest of three brothers who ran an academy of painters. Sons of a Bologna butcher, Ludovico (1555-1619) was the eldest and founder of the Academy. By preference he specialized in religious subjects. Agostino (1557-1602), trained first as a goldsmith, was witty, handsome and erudite. A superb draftsman, he excelled in etching and his paintings of broad-bottomed nudes are among the Carraci's best. Of all the family, Annibale, the youngest of the three, born in 1560, was easily the most talented. Silent and melancholy, he was absorbed in his work in later years. He died in Rome on July 14, 1609, mourned as having been "the greatest artist alive at that moment." He was forty-nine.
A favorite anecdote of art historians has long been the answer that Caracci gave when asked which one had painted a picture. "I Caracci; we all had a hand in it."
Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.
Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniatures
Great Drawings, Time Magazine, November 1956
Journal of the American Medical Association, January 18, 1995, by M. Therese Southgate, MD