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Work Aeneas Carrying His Father from Burning Troy

Department of Prints and Drawings: 16th century

Enée emportant son père après la ruine de Troie

Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN-Grand Palais - Photo M. Jeanneteau

Prints and Drawings
16th century

Boyer Sarah

This outstanding cartoon, on display in the Louvre from 1838 to 1845, was a preparatory drawing for a painting commissioned by Rudolf II in 1586, Aeneas' Flight from Troy. For many years it escaped the notice of experts. On the left, Aeneas, fleeing Troy, is carrying his father Anchises who is clutching a statue of the god Larus. Aeneas' son Ascanius is hanging on to his tunic. On the right is Aeneas' wife, Creusa. Above the figures the burning towers of the city can be seen.

A range of influences

The painting recounts an episode from Virgil's Aeneid. Troy is in flames. Aeneas, Creusa, Anchises, and Ascanius are forced to flee. This is the only known work of Barocci's to deal with a non-religious subject, other than his portraits. The subject was chosen by Rudolf II, who commissioned the painting. The architectural details in the background show the influence of Roman antiquities and Renaissance buildings, suggesting that the new city will be built on the ruins of the old abandoned city. Such details include copies of Sansovino's design for the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice and Trajan's Column and Bramante's Tempietto in Rome (the cartoon features a rectangular Tempietto instead). These depictions draw on Serlio's engravings in Antichità di Roma, published in 1540. The motif of Aeneas carrying his father away from the flames was inspired by engravings by Caraglio and Ghisi, who were in turn influenced by the figures in Raphael's Fire in the Borgo (Vatican, Stanza dell'Incendio). The background and the pathos of the fleeing figures also reveal Raphael's influence.

A painstaking method

The finished painting of Aeneas' Flight from Troy (now lost) was delivered to the emperor in Prague in 1589. Barocci painted a second version for Giuliano della Rovere. The version painted for the emperor was copied as soon as it was completed. More than a dozen of Barocci's drawings survive, as well as this cartoon, part of which has been lost. Barocci used a method that enabled him to reproduce each detail several times, thus improving the overall quality of the work. A sketch on the previous cartoon, now in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, has a different background, with a staircase on the left leading into a larger space, while the buildings in the background have a more 16th-century flavor. Furthermore, a staircase with balusters leading to the left takes the place of the staircase with the broad handrail leading into the background. This composition, transferred to the cartoon, is again reconsidered in an overall study (Cleveland Museum of Art), which reveals the solution finally adopted by the artist. This elaborate completed sheet, which, paradoxically, postdates the cartoon, demonstrates that Barocci constantly improved his compositions, even once they had been drawn to scale.

Preparatory studies

The sheet in the Cleveland Museum of Art is a working drawing that differs from the finished painting in several ways. The domestic touch of the dog racing down the stairs and the kennel behind Aeneas are both missing from the painting, perhaps because they detract from the pathos of the scene. On the right-hand side of the sheet, Barocci has sketched a number of studies of the way Aeneas is holding Anchises. A study now in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, details the head of Ascanius. On the verso of the sheet are a number of lightly sketched studies of his pose, cut off at the shoulders by the upper edge of the sheet. In the painting and the cartoon, he is shown tearing at his hair with his right hand and clutching his father's tunic with the left.


Bacou R., in Cartons d'artistes du XVe siècle au XIXe siècle, cat. exp. Paris, Musée du Louvre, 25 janvier-27 mai 1974, Paris, Ed. des Musées nationaux, 1974, n 14.
Bertela G. G., Emiliani A., Federico Barocci, cat. exp. Bologne, Museo Civico, 14 septembre-16 novembre 1975, Bologne, Edizioni Alfa, 1975.
Emiliani A., Federico Barocci (Urbino 1535-1612), Bologne, Nuova Alfa, 1985, 2 vol.
Turner N., Federico Barocci, Paris, A. Biro, 2000.

Technical description

  • Federico Barocci (1528-1612)

    Aeneas Carrying His Father from Burning Troy

    Between 1586 and 1589

  • Black chalk and stump on several sheets of beige paper, squared in black

    H. 1.48 m; L. 1.90 m

  • Acquired by the Louvre in 1802

    INV 35774

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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