Annibale Carracci (Bologna 1560 – Roma 1609) and workshop
Portable Altarpiece with “Pietà” and Saints


oil on canvas, copper, ebony and gold

43,8 x 31,2 cm (closed)

Palazzo Barberini

Inv: 1025, 1025 bis

The “altarolo”, a precious object of private devotion, has a triptych shape and two doors painted on both sides. In the central compartment it is depicted a scene of Lamentation in which the characters are fanned out: Maddalena stands with a red cloak; John bents down to support Mary, who has already lost consciousness; the body of Jesus is still harmonious, despite being lifeless and lays on a curved posture, that is usual in Annibale Carracci’s scenes of Pietà.
The pathos is intense: Mary is not seated as usual, but lying next to her son instead. Inconsolable angels express suffering to the worshippers: one of them points at the crown of thorns and reminds the viewer of the Passion of Christ.
In the internal part of the doors there is Santa Cecilia (on the left, with inscription ANGELO.AMATORE(?) BEATISSIMA VIRGO) and Sant’Ermenegildo (on the right, accompanied by the phrase REX REGEM REGUM COLUIT); on the bottom, there are scenes of their martyrdom. On the outer side of the door, Christ and God the Father are rendered located on a higher position. Below, there are representations of San Michele Arcangelo and the guardian angel, respectively. The ‘altarolo’ was commissioned by the Cardinal Odoardo Farnese, who fostered the success of the Bolognese school in Rome through the patronage of enterprises such as the Gallery in the Palazzo Farnese.