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The Farnese Gallery Cartoons


These huge cartoons were made in preparation for the painted ceiling in the Gallery of one of Rome’s greatest Renaissance private palaces, the Palazzo Farnese (now the site of the French Embassy in Rome). In 1593 Odoardo Farnese, who had just been made a cardinal, opened negotiations to get the Carracci brothers to decorate the palace he had inherited the previous year. Annibale Carracci moved to Rome in 1595, and was followed by his older brother Agostino two years later.

The Carraccis frescoed the vault and end walls of the long narrow Gallery on the first floor of the palace, where the Farnese family’s extensive collection of antiquities were displayed. Packed with illusionistic architecture, sculptures and painted mythological scenes illustrating the loves of the gods, the ceiling gives the impression of being three-dimensional. The frescoed decoration in the Palazzo Farnese is rightly considered the Carraccis' crowning achievement and was widely admired both during their lifetime and afterwards.