DOLCI, CARLO, or Carlino (1616-1686), Italian painter, was born in Florence in May 1616. He was the grandson of a painter on the mother's side, and became a disciple of Jacopo Vignali; and when only eleven years of age he attempted a whole figure of St John, and a head of the infant Christ, which received extraordinary approbation. He afterwards painted a portrait of his mother, and displayed a new and delicate style which brought him into notice, and procured him extensive employment at Florence (from which city he hardly ever moved) and in other parts of Italy. Dolci used his pencil chiefly in sacred subjects, and bestowed much labour on his pictures. In his manner of working he was remarkably slow. It is said that his brain was affected by seeing Luca Giordano, in 1682, despatch more business in four or five hours than he could have executed in as many months, and that he hence fell into a state of hypochondria, which compelled him to relinquish his art, and soon brought him to the grave. His works are not very numerous. He generally painted in a small size, although there are a few pictures by him as large as life. He died in Florence in January 1686, leaving a daughter (Agnese), who arrived at some degree of excellence in copying the works of her father.
Carlo Dolci holds somewhat the same rank in the Florentine that Sassoferrato does in the Roman school. Without the possession of much genius, invention or elevation of type, both these artists produced highly wrought pictures, extremely attractive to some tastes. The works of Dolci are easily distinguishable by the delicacy of the composition, and by an agreeable tint of colour, improved by judicious management of the chiaroscuro, which gives his figures a striking relief; he affected the use of ultramarine, much loaded in tint. "His pencil," says Pilkington, "was tender, his touch inexpressibly neat, and his colouring transparent; though he has often been censured for the excessive labour bestowed on his pictures, and also for giving his carnations more of the appearance of ivory than the look of flesh." All his best productions are of a devout description; they frequently represent the patient suffering of Christ or the sorrows of the Mater Dolorosa. Dolci was, in fact, from early youth, exceedingly pious; it is said that during passion week every year he painted a half-figure of the Saviour. His sacred heads are marked with pathetic or at least strongly sentimental emotion. There is a want of character in his pictures, and his grouping lacks harmonious unison, but the general tone accords with the idea of the passion portrayed. Among the best works of this master are the "St Sebastian"; the "Four Evangelists," at Florence; "Christ Breaking the Bread," in the marquess of Exeter's collection at Burleigh; the "St Cecilia" in Dresden; an "Adoration of the Magi"; and in especial "St Andrew praying before his Crucifixion," in the Pitti gallery, his most important composition, painted in 1646; also several smaller pictures, which are highly valued, and occupy honourable places in the richest galleries.
(W. M. R.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)