by Alexandra Tuschka
A man is laughing and holding a monkey on his shoulder; he obviously enjoys the fact that the monkey is laughing at him. The monkey is tame - it has a collar tied around it and sits relaxed on the man's body. He brings his right hand to his mouth, with his left hand he rummages in the hair of his owner. Its legs are wrapped around the man's neck almost as if in a stranglehold. The monkey's face also seems cheerful.
The scene probably shows the portrait of a minstrel who went around with his monkey for the amusement of the people and thus earned an obulus. His toothless smile, as well as the fact that the monkey apparently found in his hair in search of vermin, refers to the man's poverty and unkemptness. The monkey itself stands as a symbol of simplicity and stupidity and could thus suggest another characteristic of the sitter.
The painting, in brown tones, is an early work of Annibale Carracis, who comes from one of the most famous families of painters of the modern era. The unusual subject of the picture actually shows a reduced genre scene: man and monkey determine the picture background. This is within the rectangular format once again in an oval compositionally clamped.
Annibale Carracci - Man with a monkey
Oil on canvas, 1590s, 58.3 x 68 cm, Gallery of the Uffizi in Florence