Engraving, Holy family by Francois Albani


18th century engraving after a painting by Francois Albani. The design comes from Antoine Borel and the engraving was made by J. Couché. The engraving is part of a series of engravings of the most beautiful canvases from the Orleans collection. The image is 20.5 x 16.5 cm in size and is in a large passe partout. The plate is in a very good condition, with a small crack in the edge at the top.

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Abani was born in 1578 in Bologna, Italy. His father was a silk merchant who saw his successor in him. At the age of twelve, however, he became a student of the Flemish painter Denijs Calvaert, in whose studio he met Guido Reni. He quickly followed Reni to the so-called “Academy” of Annibale, Agostino and Ludovico Carracci. This studio formed the basis of the careers of many painters of the Bologna School, including Domenichino, Massari, Viola, Lanfranco, Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi, Pietro Faccini, Remigio Cantagallina and Reni.

In 1600, Albani moved to Rome to work on the fresco decoration of the gallery of the Palazzo Farnese, which was completed by the workshop of Annibale Carracci. At the moment, under Clement VIII Aldobrandini (1592-1605), Rome exhibited some degree of administrative stability and renewed artistic patronage.
While Pope Clement was born into a Florentine family living in Urbino, his family was connected by marriage to Emilia-Romagna and Farnese, because Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma, was married to Margherita Aldobrandini. Parma, like Bologna, which is part of the Emilia-Romagna region, was not surprising that Cardinal Odoardo Farnese, the brother of Ranuccio, chose to patronize the Carraccis from Bologna and thus the Bolognese dominance of Roman fresco painting for almost two decades to settle.

Albani became one of Annibale’s most prominent students. With the help of Annibale’s designs and assisted by Lanfranco and Sisto Badalocchio, Albani completed frescoes between 1602 and 1607 for the San Diego Chapel in San Giacomo degli Spagnoli. In 1606-7 Albani completed the frescoes at the Palazzo Mattei di Giove in Rome. He later completed two other frescoes in the same palace, also on the theme of Life of Joseph.

In 1609 he completed the ceiling of a large hall with Fall of Phaeton and Council of the Gods for the Palazzo Giustiniani (now Palazzo Odescalchi) in Bassano (di Sutri) Romano. This work was commissioned by Vincenzo Giustiniani, also famous as patron of Caravaggio.

During 1612-14, Albani completed the frescoes of the choir in the church of Santa Maria della Pace, which had just been renovated by Pietro da Cortona. In 1616 he painted ceiling frescoes by Apollo and the seasons in Palazzo Verospi in Via del Corso for Cardinal Fabrizio Verospi.

In his later years, Albani developed a mutual, though respectful, rivalry with the more successful Guido Reni, who was also heavily patronized by the Aldobrandini, and among whom Albani had worked in the chapel of the Palazzo del Quirinale.

Albani’s best frescoes are those on mythological subjects. Among the best of his sacred subjects are a Saint Sebastian and a Assumption of the Virgin Mary, both in the church of San Sebastiano Fuori le Mura in Rome. He was one of the Italian painters and devoted himself to painting cabinet pictures. His mythological subjects include The Sleeping Venus, Diana in the bath, Danae resting, Galatea at sea and Europe on the bull. A rare etching, the Death of Dido, is attributed to him.

After the death of his wife, he returned to Bologna, where he married a second time and lived until his death.