Annibale Carracci arrived in Rome in 1595 at the summons of Cardinal
Odoardo Farnese in order to work on the decorations of Palazzo Farnese.
The drawings for the Farnese Gallery—the artist's most ambitious
undertaking—are considered the pinnacle of his legendary draftsmanship.
This chubby infant is related to frescoes of paired cupids that occupy
the corners of the ceiling vault—some wrestling for a palm branch,
others bearing a torch—carried out between 1598 and 1601. Surely drawn
from a live model, this figure study reveals Annibale's astonishing
ability to render a body in space. He expertly exploited the chalk to
capture the child's vitality as well as the warm glow of light on its
smoothly textured skin.