This tenderly observed scene of family life, with a mother warming her child's nightgown before a small fire in the hearth of their home while her two children and cat look on, probably dates from the early 1580s. The mood of quiet intimacy is a striking characteristic in the revolutionary genre studies and paintings by Ludovico and Annibale Carracci.
Here, Annibale's quick inspired handling of the watery pale washes, which run on the white surface of the paper "in the form of a stain" (to borrow the apt phrase of sixteenth-century Italian art theorists who admired this type of virtuoso sketching), leads to magical effects of tone. The light emanating from the fire is a key protagonist in the composition. The artist's use of wash to define form must rank among the most daring exercises of draftsmanship, for his self-confidence was such that he apparently improvised the drawing without any underdrawing whatsoever. When the drawing was in the collection of the Eighteenth-century drawing connoisseur Pierre-Jean Mariette (1694-1774) it was reproduced in reverse by the Florentine printmaker Vincenzo Vangelisti (1740-1798) in a mixed-method engraving and etching printed in brown ink.
An impression of this design, bearing the collector's marks of Moriz von Fries and Thomas Lawrence, two previous owners of the drawing itself, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 1972.133.2a). The present drawing was exhibited in Leicester in 1954, with an attribution to Bartolomeo Schedoni, proposed by E. K. Waterhouse. This suggestion has not found acceptance, even though Babette Bohn in her monograph of 2005 rejected the attribution of the drawing either to Annibale or Agostino Carracci.
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Medium:Pen and with brown and gray-black ink, brush with gray and brown wash, over black chalk
Dimensions:Sheet: 12 7/8 x 9 1/4 in. (32.8 x 23.6 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, Mrs. Vincent Astor and Mrs. Charles Payson Gifts, Harris Brisbane Dick and Rogers Funds, 1972
Inscription: The recto is annotated by an early hand, at bottom right, in pen and brown ink: "110". The verso is annotated by an early hand, at top, in lead point or graphite: "C". The verso of the old mount is annotated by a 19th century British hand (scribe, working for the 1st Earl of Ellesmere; numbers and text relate to Bridgewater House catalogue, later published, London, 1898), at center, in pen and black ink: "5. Annibale Carracci. A domestic scene; a woman / airing linen: two children + [and] a cat: pen + [and] lightly washed / Size 13" x 9 1/4. From the Collections of Crozat, Mariette, the Count / de Fries + [and] Sir Thomas Lawrence". The verso of the old mount is annotated, in graphite: "Collections of C. degli Occhialli / Crozat / Marriette / Count Fries / D'Argenville."
(transcription by Carmen C. Bambach, revised 2014)
Marking: Stamp, at lower left, Pierre-Jean Mariette (Lugt 2097): Stamp a secco, at lower left, Count Moriz von Fries (Lugt 2903); Stamp a secco, at lower left, Sir Thomas Lawrence (Lugt 2445)
Carlo degli Occhiali; Pierre Crozat (French), according to Mariette - Mahon, 1963, p. 152; Pierre Jean Mariette (French); Count Moriz von Fries (Austrian); Sir Thomas Lawrence (British); Francis Egerton, 1st Earl of Ellesmere (British); Sotheby's, London- July 11, 1972, no. 46, repr.
Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna. "Mostra dei Carracci," September 1, 1956–November 25, 1956.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints by the Carracci," April 24–July 1, 1973.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings Recently Acquired, 1972–75," October 1, 1975–January 4, 1976.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions 1965–1975," December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976.
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. "Bolognese Drawings in North American Collections, 1500-1800," September 11, 1981–November 8, 1981.
Sixth Exhibition: One Hundred Original Drawings by Ludovico, Agostino, and Annibal Carracci.. Lawrence Gallery and Messrs. Woodburn's Gallery, London, London, 1836, cat. no. 68.
Catalogue of the Ellesmere Collection of Drawings at Bridgewater House. Ellesmere Collection at Bridgewater, London, Bridgewater House, London, 1898, cat. no. 5.
Catalogue of the Exhibition of 17th century Art in Europe. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1938, cat. no. 376.
Old Master Drawings. Exh. cat. Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester, England, 1952, cat. no. 17.
P. A. Tomory The Ellesmere Collection of Old Master Drawings Exh. cat. Leicester, 1954, cat. no. 108.
Drawings by the Carracci and other Masters. Exh. cat. P. & D. Colnaghi & Co., 1955, cat. no. 42.
Denys Sutton "The Carracci as Draughtsmen." in Country Life. February 3, 1955, fig. no. p. 317, p. 317, ill.
Ralph Holland, London The Carracci, Drawings and Prints. Exhibition Catalogue: The Hatton Gallery. Newcastle upon Tyne, 1961, cat. no. 75, fig. no. pl. 18, ill.
Sir Denis Mahon, Maurizio Calvesi Mostra dei Carracci. Disegni. Exh. cat., Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio, Bologna (Sept. 1 - Nov. 25, 1956). 2nd edition revised and corrected (1st. in 1956). Bologna, 1963, pp. 152-53, no. 225, pl. 106 (as "Scozia, collezione del Conte di Ellesmere in deposito al Leicester Museums and Art Gallery")., fig. no. pl. 106, ill.
Roseline Bacou with Françoise Viatte, and others. Le Cabinet d'un grand amateur P.-J. Mariette Exh. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1967. Musée du Louvre, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1967, cat. no. 26, fig. no. 26, ill.
Donald Posner Annibale Carracci: A Study in the Reform of Italian Painting Around 1590. vol. 1, 5. Phaidon, London, 1971, cat. no. vol. 1, fig. no. 21, p.18, ill.
Jacob Bean Drawings and Prints by the Carracci. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (April 24-July 1, 1973). New York, 1973, cat. no. 11.
"[Note]." in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.s. vol. 31, no. 4, New York, Summer 1973, fig. no. 11, no pagination, ill.
A. W. A. Boschloo Annibale Carracci in Bologna: Visible Reality in Art after the Council of Trent. 2 volumes, Rome-The Hague, 1974, fig. no. vol. 2, 129, vol. 1, p. 34, ill.
Jacob Bean European Drawings Recently Acquired, 1972–1975. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1975, cat. no. 9.
Jacob Bean "Drawings." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965-1975. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975, p. 62, ill.
Jacob Bean Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions, 1965-1975. Explanatory texts accompanying an exhibition. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975, p. 62 (entry by Jacob Bean).
Gianfranco Malafarina, J. Patrick Cooney L'opera completa di Annibale Carracci. Milan, 1976, cat. no. 3, fig. no. 3, appendix 3, ill.
Jacob Bean, Lawrence Turčić 17th century Italian Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1979, cat. no. 95, fig. no. 95, p. 62, ill.
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