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The History Of The Caracci
by [?]

Returning to Bologna, he found his degraded brothers in art still quarrelling about the merits of the old and the new school, and still exulting in their vague conceptions and expeditious methods. Lodovico, who had observed all, had summed up his principle in one grand maxim,–that of combining a close observation of nature with the imitation of the great masters, modifying both, however, by the disposition of the artist himself. Such was the simple idea and the happy project of Lodovico! Every perfection seemed to have been obtained: the Raffaeleschi excelled in the ideal; the Michelagnuoleschi in the anatomical; the Venetian and the Lombard schools in brilliant vivacity or philosophic gravity. All seemed preoccupied; but the secret of breaking the bonds of servile imitation was a new art: of mingling into one school the charms of every school, adapting them with freedom; and having been taught by all, to remain a model for all; or, as Lanzi expresses it, dopo avere appresso da tutte insegno a tutte. To restore Art in its decline, Lodovico pressed all the sweets from all the flowers; or, melting together all his rich materials, formed one Corinthian brass. This school is described by Du Fresnoy in the character of Annibale,

—- Quos sedulus Hannibal omnes
In PROPRIAM MENTEM atque morem mira arte COEGIT.

Paraphrased by Mason,

From all their charms combined, with happy toil,
Did Annibal compose his wondrous style;
O’er the fair fraud so close a veil is thrown,
That every borrow’d grace becomes his own.[3]

Lodovico perceived that he could not stand alone in the breach, and single-handed encounter an impetuous multitude. He thought of raising up a party among those youthful aspirants who had not yet been habitually depraved. He had a brother whose talent could never rise beyond a poor copyist’s, and him he had the judgment, unswayed by undue partiality, to account as a cipher; but he found two of his cousins men capable of becoming as extraordinary as himself.

These brothers, Agostiuo and Annibale, first by nature, and then by their manners and habits, were of the most opposite dispositions. Born amidst humble occupations, their father was a tailor, and Annibale was still working on the paternal board, while Agostino was occupied by the elegant works of the goldsmith, whence he acquired the fine art of engraving, in which he became the Marc Antonio of his time. Their manners, perhaps, resulted from their trades. Agostino was a man of science and literature: a philosopher and poet of the most polished elegance, the most enchanting conversation, far removed from the vulgar, he became the companion of the learned and the noble. Annibale could scarcely write and read; an inborn ruggedness made him sullen, taciturn, or, if he spoke, sarcastic; scorn and ridicule were his bitter delight. Nature had strangely made these brothers little less than enemies. Annibale despised his brother for having entered into the higher circles; he ridiculed his refined manners, and even the neat elegance of his dress. To mortify Agostino, one day he sent him a portrait of their father threading a needle, and their mother cutting out the cloth, to remind him, as he once whispered in Agostino’s ear, when he met him walking with a nobleman, “not to forget that they were sons of a poor tailor!”[4] The same contrast existed in the habits of their mind. Agostino was slow to resolve, difficult to satisfy himself; he was for polishing and maturing everything: Annibale was too rapid to suffer any delay, and, often evading the difficulties of the art, loved to do much in a short time. Lodovico soon perceived their equal and natural aptitude for art; and placing Agostino under a master who was celebrated for his facility of execution, he fixed Annibale in his own study, where his cousin might be taught by observation the Festina lente; how the best works are formed by a leisurely haste. Lodovico seems to have adopted the artifice of Isocrates in his management of two pupils, of whom he said that the one was to be pricked on by the spur, and the other kept in by the rein.