Christ in the Wilderness, Served by Angels

Ludovico Carracciaround 1608

Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Berlin, Germany

Religious subjects dominat Ludovico's œuvre. He went beyond Mannerism and, as the first exponent of Baroque painting in the Bologna area, prepared the way for Guido Reni and Guercino. The Berlin picture was painted during the period of transition to his late style. As frequently happens in the work of Carracci, the figures are kept relatively small in relation to the overall area, while great importance is given to the landscape. The light, which allows the unusual local colours to shine out directly over broad areas of the picture, is familiar from other works by Carracci, and so is the romantic, fantastic night atmosphere, which makes the painting seem strangely modern. The figures of the angels, delicately elongated and standing out effectively against the dark forest ground, also contribute to the eerie atmosphere; they have faces typical of Ludovico's style, with over-large eyes, long, narrow noses and low brows. An unusual number of them are trying to help the Messiah, who is at the beginning of his public mission; he has just resisted the temptations of the Devil, who is disappearing into the sky at the top left. Careful examination reveals even more angels, including the ghostly, shadowy figures in the clouds, which are bathed in pallid light—approximately two dozen in all. Some are bringing fresh food on a covered plate, while others are already cleaning the tableware. Others again are playing musical instruments. But the four in the main group are exclusively concerned with solemnly washing Christ's hands like a priest before the consecration— a new feature for this theme that was much used at the time, although it was often precisely the liturgical associations that determined this choice. For this reason the table, sparsely equipped as an altar, does not seem so out of place. It was scarcely suitable as an altar-piece because of its horizontal format, and it found its way into a Bolognese collection as early as 1678.


  • Title: Christ in the Wilderness, Served by Angels
  • Creator: Ludovico Carracci
  • Date Created: around 1608
  • Physical Dimensions: w225.3 x h157.2 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Style: Italian
  • Copyright Text: Text: © http://www.prestel.com, Prestel Verlag / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Matthias Weniger // Photo: © http://www.bpk-images.de, b p k - Photo Agency / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Collection: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist information: Ludovico Carracci was an Italian early Baroque painter, printmaker and etcher. He studied under Prospero Fontana in Bologna and travelled to several Italian cities such as Florence, Parma and Venice, where he studied the works of Titian, Tintoretto, Andrea del Sarto and Correggio. Back in Bologna, he founded the Accademia degli Incamminati together with his brilliantly talented brother, Annibale Carracci. The Accademia was a studio with apprenticed assistants that included Giacomo Cavedone. The apprentices drew studies that focused on the observation of nature, natural poses as well as on classical antiquity. Carracci's own works are characterized by a strong mood invoked by broad gestures and flickering light that create spiritual emotion. He was the rival to Caravaggio, who represented an opposing opinion on art. 'The Lamentation' (c. 1582) is one of his most famous artworks.
  • Artist Place of Death: Bologna, Italy
  • Artist Place of Birth: Bologna, Italy
  • Artist Gender: male
  • Artist Dates: 1555-04-21/1619-11-13

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