Agostino Carracci (Italian, Bolognese, 15571602), after Federico Barocci (Italian, ca. 15351612)
Engraving; 15 1/16 x 21 5/8 in. (38.2 x 55 cm), trimmed at bottom, inscription lacking
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1947 (47.100.1023)
Recognizing the futility of further defense of his city, and told by the shade of the Trojan prince Hector that his destiny was to establish a mighty city in another land, Aeneas departed the burning city with his aged father Anchises on his back. Anchises carried the penates (household gods), and Aeneas held his son Ascanius by the hand. His wife Creusa followed a few steps behind but was lost in the confusion of battle. That the buildings of Troy seen here recall monuments in Rome is perhaps intended to foreshadow Aeneas' fate.
Barocci produced two paintings of this subject, however the earlier one was already in Prague when Agostino created his engraving, while the second version postdates it by three years. When Cornelis Cort reproduced one of Barocci's paintings, Barocci provided Cort with a drawing that deviated slightly from the original painting, and he may have done the same in this case. Agostino's manner of engraving owed much to Cort's example, but it does not seem that Barocci sought out Agostino to take the place of Cort, who had died some years earlier. Agostino's biographer Malvasia tells us that Agostino created this engraving "for study, and to please himself." Agostino succeeded in pleasing himself but did not please Barocci, to whom he sent two impressions of the engraving and received a rather nasty letter in return. It is hardly surprising that Barocci was unhappy, given that his paintings are characterized by ineffable softness and subtle coloristic changes rather than the sculptural form and bulging muscles that Agostino emphasized. In previous engravings, Agostino had adapted Cort's manner to reproduce the coloristic qualities of Venetian painting. In this work, he turned for the first time to the example of the Dutch engraver Hendrick Goltzius, perhaps in response to Goltzius' Rest on the Flight, published the previous year, which masterfully replicates Barocci's painting style without copying a specific painting. Yet Agostino did not imitate the subtly flowing and dissolving network of swelling lines that Goltzius had used to blur contours and blend tones in that work, but rather the emphatic and exaggerated burin line that Goltzius had earlier applied to heroic subjects and Roman statues (17.37.59). Involved with his brother and cousin in the reform of painting, Agostino was known for "correcting" his models when he engraved them, in this case making a heroic subject even more so through firmer contours and the recollection of ancient sculpture.