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EXTENDED carelessly on the pavement, and reclining on the bosom of his mother, the infant Jesus enjoys the happiness of profound sleep. The child St. John extends his hand to caress him, and is on the point of waking him, when the virgin desires him, by a sign, not to disturb the repose of her son.
This charming picture, one of the most graceful of Annibal Caracci, painted on wood, is about a foot in length. The drawing is correct, the expression true, and the objects treated with considerable judgment.
There is extant an old engraving of this picture, with a drapery in the back ground, as represented in the annexed sketch. This drapery does not exist in the original composition, whose ground is of a single tint.
This artist excelled in portraits, or overcharged cariHe gave to his animals, and even to his vases, the figure of a man whom he wished to turn into ridicule. One of his scholars being more occupied with the elegance of his toilette thau in the study of painting, Annibal represented him with an air perfectly coxcomical, and so forcibly did the portrait express the defect of the original, that the young man renounced, from that moment, his excessive attention to dress.
Annibal lived in a philosophic style, disregarding the luxury of polished society, frequently hurtful to artists, as engrossing too much of their time. This led him to blame the conduct of his brother Agostino, who passed the greater part of his life in his antichamber, and in the company of princes and cardinals, and who dressed himself with so much magnificence, that he had more the appearance of a man of quality than a painter. Annibal perceiving him, one day, with a haughty gait, walking on the parade with some persons of the first distinction, he pretended to have something to communicate of the greatest importance, and drawing him on one side, he whispered to him in the ear, "Agostino, recollect you are a taylor's son."
As a proof that Annibal was insensible to the pomp attendant on the great, and unwilling to pay homage to superior rank, the Cardinal Borghese having come one day to pay him a visit, he slid out of his house by a back door, leaving his disciples the task of receiving the prelate. Annibal having spoken disrespectfully of the works of Josepin, this painter was disposed to seek redress by the sword; when Annibal, taking up his pencil, and showing it to his rival, exclaimed, "By this weapon I defy you, and will prove myself the conqueror."
When Annibal found his last hour approaching, he desired to be interred by the side of Raphael, in order that his remains might be united with those of a painter whom he so highly esteemed. He died in 1609.