1598; Oil on canvas, Galleria Borghese, Rome
Federico Barrocci's Aeneas' Flight from Troy with Anchises, his son Ascanius and his wife Creusa is the second version painted in 1598 of a picture executed ten years earlier for Emperor Rudolf II of Austria. Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere presented Cardinal Scipione with this second version, which entered the Borghese collection before 1613. It was this painting that inspired Cardinal Scipione to commission a large marble group on the same subject from Gian Lorenzo Bernini (also in the Borghese Gallery). The myth of Aeneas, ancestor of Romulus and Remus, referred to the birth of Rome and thus confirmed the Borghese family's high status in the city.
Barrocci's many drawings of nature led him to achieve a spontaneity and naturalness in movement, colour and airy effects, and a silvery luminosity that was to influence the 17th-century masters, particularly Rubens. Never before had flames been painted so close to, with an energy suggesting even the crackle of the fire, from which Ascanius seems to be protecting himself by covering his ears. But the human delicacy of Barrocci's anti-heroic and anti-rhetorical figures was not to be really appreciated in Rome, because it could not compete with the classical antique statuary.
The Flight of Aeneas
Black chalk, heightened with white, on paper formerly blue, mounted on canvas; Musée du Louvre, Paris, France
Aeneas, Trojan hero, son of Anchises and of Aphrodite, fled from the burning town of Troy, carrying his father and leading his son Ascanius. To the right, Creusa, daughter of Priam and first wife of Aeneas, adds to the scene the magnitude of her affliction which fortells her impending fate. This cartoon prepared, not without notable variations, a painting (today lost) commanded by Emperor Rudolph II in 1586, finished in 1589 and sent to Prague. There is a painted copy dated 1595 (Rome, Galleria Borghese)