Painter, engraver, and draftsman, Agostino Carracci was active in Bologna, Rome, and Parma and was a founder of the Carracci Academy in Bologna in 1582. Rejecting the extreme artifice of Mannerism, the prevailing style of painting during the late sixteenth century, the Accademia degli Incamminati ("those who are making progress"), as the Carracci Academy soon came to known, championed the study of nature and the primacy of drawing from life as central tenets of a new artistic idiom that derived its expressive capacity and emotional force from an engaging naturalism and verisimilitude.
Agostino's depiction of a partially blind woman (her glazed right eye is unseeing), drawn from life, exemplifies the new naturalism that lay at the heart of the Carracci reform. The unknown sitter is both physically and psychologically present: even with her impaired vision she confronts the viewer with an unwavering gaze. Details such as her slender neck scarf, hoop earrings, and braided coif dressed with bows or flowers (adornments indicating that, unlike Annibale Carracci's portraits of blind subjects, this sitter is not impoverished) are confidently rendered. This powerful, exceptionally lifelike portrait is among Agostino's most important and accomplished red-chalk drawings.
Among the finest of Agostino's drawings, this work is also an outstanding example of Bolognese naturalistic portraiture of the late sixteenth century. Probably dating from the 1590s, during the artist's stay in Rome, the drawing bears a striking resemblance to Agostino's painting of Anna Parolini Guicciardini (Gemäldegalerie, Berlin), which is signed and dated 1598. The Museum's drawing, however, communicates the identity of the sitter with more unsparing veracity and greater psychological immediacy than is found in any of Agostino's late painted portraits of women. Much of its expressive force derives from the woman's intent gaze. Agostino subtly distinguished between her seeing and her blind eye, not only by contrasting the anatomical details but also by changing his handling of the red chalk medium – the tonal scale, the line weight, and the direction of the hatching.
(Carmen C. Bambach, 2008)
Marking: Stamp, at lower right, appears to be that of Jonathan Richardson, Jr. (Lugt 2170); unidentified collector's stamp on early mount (not in Lugt).
Jonathan Richardson Jr. (British)(Lugt 2170); John B. Skippe (British); by descent to Penelope Skippe Martin (British)(married James Martin in 1774); James Martin (British); by descent to descendants of Martin family (including Mrs. A.D. Rayner-Wood); Edward Holland Martin, Esq.by descent through the Martin family; Skippe Sale, Christie's, London, Nov. 21-22, 1958, lot 63, pl. 9 (as Agostino Carracci); Curtis O. Baer
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Selections from the Department of Drawings and Prints: Portraits and States," August 8, 2017–November 20, 2017.
Catalogue of the Exhibition of 17th century Art in Europe. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1938, cat. no. no. 372.
Arthur Ewart Popham The Skippe Collection of Old Master Drawings Christie's London, November 20-21, 1958. 1958, p. 51, no. 63 (as Agostino Carracci, Portrait of a middle-aged Woman).
Agnes Mongan Master Drawings 14th-20th Century from the Collection of Curtis O. Baer. Exh. cat. Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, New York, 1962, cat. no. 7.
Jacob Bean, Felice Stampfle Drawings from New York Collections, Vol. II: The Seventeenth Century in Italy. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 1967, pp. 20-21, no. 5, fig. 5, ill.
Adelheid M. Gealt Italian Portrait Drawings, 1400-1800 from North American Collections Exh. cat., Bloomington, Indiana, Indiana University Art Museum; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvannia, Gallery of Art, University of Pittsburgh; Oberlin, Ohio, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1983-1984, cat. no. 15, fig. no. 15, p. 40, ill.
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George R. Goldner "Curatorial Reports and Departmental Accessions: Drawings" in Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum, July 1, 1993 - June 30, 1994. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994, p. 28.
Carmen C. Bambach, Colta Ives, Suzanne Boorsch, Carolyn Logan, Perrin Stein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1994-1995." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 53, no. 2, Fall 1995, p. 31, ill.
Artist: Agostino Carracci (Italian, Bologna 1557–1602 Parma) Date: 1557–1602Medium: Pen and brown ink, over traces of leadpoint or soft black chalk (recto and verso)Accession: 1975.131.16On view in:Not on view