Annibale Carracci's engraving reproducted in «Alli nobilissimi amatori del disegno » by Pietro Stefanoni (Rome, 1608).
The Carraches are from Bologna, where Ludovic was born in 1555 and his two cousins Augustin and Annibale, respectively in 1557 and 1560. The local artistic environment, as influenced as it was by mannerism (such is the case of Prospero Fontana, who would have been Ludovic's first master), had never abandoned direct references to nature, as shown by the free and varied work of Bartolomeo Passerotti. This trend is reinforced to a certain extent by the arrival of the Flemish Denys Calvaert, who opened a school in Bologna in 1570. Born in Antwerp, Denys Calvaert was one of the few Flemish artists of the period who worked for most of his career in Italy. After an apprenticeship in the studio of the landscape painter Cerstiaen van Queckborne, Calvaert settled in Bologna sometime around 1561 or 1562, and there completed his artistic training with the painters Prospero Fontana and Lorenzo Sabatini. Both artists were sometime collaborators with Giorgio Vasari, and in 1572 Calvaert accompanied Sabatini to Rome, where they worked under Vasari’s supervision on the fresco decoration of the Sala Regia in the Vatican for Pope Gregory XIII. Calvaert would thus have gained some experience of Tuscan Mannerism early in his career. On his return to Bologna in 1575, he established his own studio. «Dionisio» was greatly respected in his adopted city as a conscientious, though occasionally irascible, teacher, whose studio produced some of the great names of Bolognese painting - Domenichino, Guido Reni and Francesco Albani. Calvaert's style was less admired, especially by the artistic biographers of the later seventeenth century. Malvasia considered his way of working « too licked and mannered » (troppo leccato e manieroso). It was this mannerist aesthetic that caused all three of his famous pupils mentioned above to desert his studio in order to join the «Carracci Academy», founded in Bologna in the 1580s by Ludovico, Annibale and Agostino Carracci. He ran a large and busy studio in Bologna, receiving numerous commissions for religious pictures for local churches and smaller devotional works for private patrons. Indeed, Calvaert was to become, alongside the Carracci, one of the leading painters in the city in the last quarter of the 16th century, at the height of the Counter Reformation. Calvaert’s artistic evolution, starting with a youthful journey to Italy to perfect his training, shows that he remained faithful to sixteenth-century Mannerism throughout his life, giving pride of place to disegno, but particularly interested in the younger generation. Calvaert was a prolific and talented draughtsman, and many of his drawings are dated or can be connected with surviving paintings. The present sheet would appear to be a study after the Annibale Carracci's engraving reproducted in «Alli nobilissimi amatori del disegno » by Pietro Stefanoni (Rome, 1608). Though rivals, Calvaert was aware of Annibale's works. The attribution of our drawing to Denys Calvaert is based on a stylistic comparison with two drawings of the Louvre attributed to the Flemish origin master, previously designated as Flemish Anonymous late 16th Century: - Old man's head from three quarters, turned to the left, red chalk, 29 x 16,5 cm, INV 20922. Our sheet has the same Flemish treatment of blood, semicircular and concentric hatching on the cheeks, identical hair or beard curls and similar eyebrows.