Ludovico Carracci
(Bologna 1555 – 1619)


Portrait of Carlo Alberto Rati Opizzoni in armour, three-quarter-length, wearing the Order of the Knights of Malta, the city of Bologna beyond 


oil on canvas
102 x 86.2 cm. (40.1 x 34 in.)
c. 1597-1600

“It is impossible to imagine such a rich and thick surface of planes in the definition of the factories and the countryside outside the city and such a depth of field, beneath the immense stormy sky. Not only, therefore, the most complete among the views of his city left by Ludovico, but one of the most captivating, I dare say, of all Bolognese painting.”

Alessandro Brogi, Ludovico Carracci. Addenda., Bologna, 2016, p. 101.

Ludovico Carracci was born in Bologna in 1555 and after being an apprentice to Prospero Fontana (1512-1597) there, he travelled to Florence, Parma and Venice, before returning to his native Bologna. Together with his two cousins Agostino (1557-1602) and Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), he founded the Accademia degli Incamminati in 1582, one of the first and most progressive art academies in Italy. Ludovico led this influential art school for 20 years, during which time the Carracci trained great painters of the next generation, such as Guido Reni (1575-1642) and Domenichino (1581-1641).1



The three artists collaborated on several fresco cycles, the most important being a cycle of Jason and the Argonauts in the Palazzo Fava (1583). When his cousins left for Rome in the mid-1590s, Ludovico stayed in Bologna to run the Accademia until his death in 1619. This period marked the height of Ludovico’s career as the leading artist in Bologna and his works commanded the highest prices.2 He received commissions from important patrons, and this likeness of Carlo Alberto Rati Opizzoni (b. 1566) is one of his most outstanding achievements in Bolognese portraiture, a genre Ludovico rarely worked on. The three-quarter-length figure in front of an open window was a typical arrangement seen in ‘status’ portraiture of the late sixteenth century, yet Carracci’s innovative use of chiaroscuro and dynamic compositions, which he developed in those years, opened a path toward the Baroque style.3


1. Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Lodovico Carracci,” accessed June 23, 2020,
2. Diane de Grazia and Eric Garberson, Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systemic Catalogue (Washington D.C.: The National Gallery, 1996), 54-55.
3. Tiziano e il Ritratto di Corte da Raffaello ai Carracci, exh. cat. (Naples: Museo di Capodimonte, 2006), 210.


Conte Luigi Amedeo Rati Opizzoni (1877-1946), Turin, by 1911, to whom gifted by the city of Bologna (according to family tradition) before 1911;
thence by direct family descent (in New York by 1930), until sold in the following;
anonymous sale [Property from a New York Estate]; Sotheby’s, New York, 27 January 2005, lot 125 to a Private Collection;
anonymous sale [Property from a Private Collection]; Christie’s, London, 5 July 2018, lot 36;
The Klesch Collection.

Florence, Palazzo Pitti, “Mostra del ritratto italiano dal Caravaggio al Tiepolo”, 1911, no. 545 (as “Bolognese School, 17th Century”, lent by Conte Luigi Rati Opizzoni).
Naples, Museo di Capodimonte, “Tiziano e il ritratto di corte da Raffaelo a Carracci”, 25 March – 4 June 2006, no. C19.
Christie’s, London, “Art Adorned”, 22 November – 3 December 2019.

M. Marangoni, Il Ritratto Italiano dal Caravaggio al Tiepolo alla Mostra di Palazzo Vecchio del 1911, Bergamo, c.1927, p. 60, pl. XX.
A. Brogi, “Un ritratto di Ludovico Carracci”, Paragone, XXXVII, 1986, pp. 75-78, nos. 431-33, pl. 47.
A. Brogi, Ludovico Carracci, Bologna, 2001, I, pp. 176-7, no. 62; II, fig. 151.

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