Its attention is drawn to the colour mixtures, graphic representations and priceless architecture on the background. It was done between 1590 – 1610, although most historians use 1607 as the year of publication. This was the time when the Baroque style of painting was at its peak. The painting was done in two phases; the first one being linked to Francesco Brizio while the final artwork credited to Annibale Carracci. The original medium was etching with a trimmed dimension of 26 centimetres by 45.5 centimetres.
The painting shows a group of people (both adults and children) seated on the steps of a building. They appear sickly and while others are struggling to get alms from Saint Roch on the staircase. On the left side of the picture, there is a man being carried on a wheeler being rushed to the stairs as others scramble to get the alms. The attention to colours, dimensions and symmetry of the painting is clear, which points at the highly ornate style associated with Baroque painting. The painting uses deep colour, high contrast and motion to capture dynamic expressions. As this form of painting grew into Italy, France and Spain in the early 17th century, many artists picked it up and made it a household painting technique.
Born in an artistic family, Annibale closely followed Tiziano Vecelli’s work and got interested in his usage of colours. Together with his kins Ludovico Carracci and Agostino Carracci, they founded the Desiderosi Academy where they showcased their artwork. The Carraccis worked together in most of their early works and were influenced by the church. Over time, Annibale was instrumental to the artistic growth of Giovanni Bellori, Pietro da Cortana, Giovanni Lafranco and Andrea Pozzo. He is credited for infusing procedure, depicting timelines in his painting and creating a lasting art line that was popular in Italy and beyond in the 17th and 18th century.
Annibale’s original works include the Baptism of Christ (1585), The Assumption (1587) and The Virgin on the Throne with St. John and St. Catherine (1593). Paintings done around 1607 included Madona of the Bowl (1606) and the Nativity (1607). The original Saint Roch Distributing Alms by Annibale Carracci was bought by Peter Tomory in 2004 but is currently housed at the Auckland Art Gallery. Duplicates of the painting can be found in online art shops. There have been variations of the painting, ranging from black and white to coloured.