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The Cover
November 24, 2010

Boy Drinking

JAMA. 2010;304(20):2209. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1447

A hand dominates Annibale Carracci's (1560-1609) Boy Drinking (cover), full of power like the hands of Michelangelo's David, or the outstretched hand of God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Carracci's depiction of flexed fingers and fleshy forearm—in a perfect representation of foreshortening—almost conceals the boy. The young man appears, his face in turn partially obscured by the drinking glass and the vessel of wine, in layers of perspective like strata of rock on an Apennine hillside. Further examination reveals a frill-collared shirt, a jutting chin, and eyes and a forehead out of proportion—all illustrations of Carracci's compositional genius. Boy Drinking was probably painted while Carracci visited his brother Agostino—an artist and a poet—in Venice, prior to their return to Bologna. Carracci's lesser-known genre work, featuring scenes of real life, occupied him before he received commissions from the nobility and from wealthy religious orders. The Butcher's ShopJAMA cover, January 18, 1995) and The Bean Eater are excellent examples of his early artistic breadth; these paintings probably contain visual jokes and meaningful, for the era, symbolism. It is unclear if Boy Drinking itself holds hidden messages, imbued with Carracci's cleverness; it has been suggested that this painting, and at least one similar to it, were bozzetti, preparatory oil sketches, done from life, for The Bean Eater.

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