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© 1995 RMN / Gérard Blot

Italian painting

Agnès Alfandari

Has a companion piece: Hunting. The two paintings were perhaps conceived as overdoors.

A series of small fishing scenes

The painter has arranged several groups of figures in a country landscape, each group forming a small genre scene. Although artificially assembled together in the same space, the scenes seem painted from life. To the right a fisherman, still partially immersed, offers his catch to an elegant couple. In the center on the riverbank that runs the length of the composition, three figures in a boat make up a second scene: standing in the prow, a man stabilizes his boat with a pole, while a woman wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat gathers in the nets; between them, a man leaning over a large woven tray sifts through the catch. Further to the left, a young man holds a line leading into the water, while his companion prepares fish for sale. In the middle ground, the painter depicts yet other occupations, such as the two men stripped to the waist who draw in their hoop net.

The artist leads the eye

The gesture of the right figure - arms open, finger pointing - invites the viewer to enter into the painting. Carracci places the groups of figures across the full width of the work, organizing the composition in such a way that the scenes alternate on different planes. In this way, the viewer can pass from one to the other toward the painting's center without a single detail going unnoticed.
The verticality of the trees contrasts with the body of water that stretches across the composition and recedes toward the background in an estuary. The colors play an important role in defining the space: speckles of white animate the surface of the water; blues and silver grays are used to render the luminous background. Annibale would often take up the ridge motif in the foreground, juxtaposed with the stretch of river, prior to this becoming one of the standard accessories of classical landscape painting.

A new style

Annibale Carracci was 24 when he painted Fishing and its companion piece, Hunting. The two works date thus to the painter's Bolognese period, before his departure for Rome in 1584. In these paintings, Carracci endeavored to render the different activities connected with rural fishing and hunting. Figures and landscapes form a harmonious ensemble, with each small scene given equal significance. This type of subject matter was common in the villa decoration of the Bologna region where Carracci worked. Fishing and Hunting announce a new style: a meeting point of the examples of the great Renaissance masters and the direct study of nature. These two principles form the guiding strain of the teaching offered by the Carracci - Annibale, his brother Agostino, and their cousin Ludovico - at the academy they opened in Bologna circa 1585.

Technical description

  • Annibale CARRACCI (Bologna, 1560 - Rome, 1609)


    c. 1585-88

  • H. 1.36 m; W. 2.55 m

  • Collection of Louis XIV (gift of prince Camillo Pamphili en 1665)

    INV. 209

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Grande Galerie
    Room 710, 712, 716

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