The Carracci

The new Senators who Pope Sixtus V nominated in 1590 finally included the Bolognese Lorenzo Magnani. This long-coveted recognition had been in the air for some time and Magnani, who had probably already been the wealthiest man in Bologna for several years, had decided to build himself a palazzo which was just as good as the Roman ones. As a show of obedience to the pontiff, he chose to have the hall on the piano nobile, or first floor, decorated with stories from Rome’s foundation. True to the text by Plutarch (which in turn draws from the fable narrated by Tito Livio), the story is depicted in fourteen frames, like a comic strip, beginning with the finding of the twins Romulus and Remus along the course of the Aniene river.

The newly elected Senator decided to trust decorations for the building to the inspiration of those three Incamminati who had already distinguished themselves with the Palazzo dei Fava and were able to mix the sacred with the profane, the coarse with the refined – Il Mangiafagioli (The Beaneater), Le Macellerie (The Butcher’s Shop), the caricatures – and the most dignified of themes from mythology and from ancient tales. That is to say, to Agostino, Annibale and Ludovico Carracci. Someone new to the scene, with their life ahead of them and a forward-facing outlook. Someone able to smile and not take things too seriously, although their studies and the quality of their art would be very serious. Modern art critics have attempted to distinguish between their different contributions but not without disagreement. And when contemporaries asked the three of them who had done what, they would reply in chorus: “It’s a Carracci, we’ve all done it.”