Vittore Carpaccio
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ittore Carpaccio (also Scarpazza, Scarpazo, Scarpaccia, as well as Victori Scarpatio and Victor Carpathius) was born c. 1465 in Venice or Capodistria, the son of Piero Scarpazza, a leather merchant. Vittore Carpaccio.jpg painter

born in Capodistria or Venice
c. 1465

The date of his birth is conjectural and the facts of his life are obscrure, but he came from a family originally from Mazzorbo, an island in the diocese of Torcello who were fishermen and boat builders. Documents trace the family back to at least the 13th century, and its members were diffuse and established throughout Venice. Vittore changed his family name to Carpaccio upon entering the Humanist circles of Venice.

Carpaccio is first mentioned in 1472 in a will of his uncle Fra Ilario, and Dr. Ludwig infers from this that he was born c. 1455, on the ground that no one could enter into an inheritance under the age of fifteen; but the inference ignores the possibility of a testator making his will in prospect of the beneficiary attaining his legal age. Consideration of the youthful style of his earliest dated pictures (“St Ursula” series, Venice, 1490) makes it improbable that at that time he had reached so mature an age as thirty-five; and the date of his birth is more probably to be guessed from his being about twenty-five in 1490.

What is certain is that he was a pupil (not, as Vasari has maintained, the master) of Lazzaro Bastiani (c. 1430-1512), who, like the Bellini and Vivarini, was the head of a large atelier in Venice, and whose own work is seen in such pictures as the “S. Veneranda” at Vienna, and the “Doge Mocenigo kneeling before the Virgin” and “Madonna and Child” (formerly attributed to Carpaccio) in the National Gallery, London. In later years Carpaccio appears to have been influenced by Cima da Conegliano (e.g. in the “Death of the Virgin,” 1508, at Ferrara). Apart from the “St Ursula” series, his scattered series of the “Life of the Virgin” and “Life of St Stephen,” and a “Dead Christ” at Berlin, may be specially mentioned. He is sometimes also mentioned as having been a student of Gentile Bellini (1429-1507), a Venetian painter of incident-filled narratives, and assistant to Gentile's brother Giovanni, but even if so, Carpaccio ultimately developed his own fanciful storytelling style.

Carpaccio's principal works were executed between 1490 and 1519, ranking him among the early masters of the Venetian Renaissance. His earliest known solo works are a Salvator Mundi in the Collezione Contini Bonacossi and a Pietà now in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. These works clearly show the influence of Antonello da Messina and Giovanni Bellini - especially in the use of light and colors - as well as the influence of the schools of Ferrara and Forlì.

His style was somewhat conservative, showing little influence from the Humanist trends that transformed Italian Renaissance painting during his lifetime. He was influenced by the style of Antonello da Messina and Early Netherlandish art. For this reason, and also because so much of his best work remains in Venice, his art has been rather neglected by comparison with other Venetian contemporaries, such as Giovanni Bellini or Giorgione. Although he painted religious works and secular panel paintings, his main vocation comprised huge, narrative canvases for the Venetian scuole, whose tastes for richly colored panoramas celebrating the city's success perfectly matched his talents. He always managed to depict Venice in his painting.

Sant'Orsola polyptich - Ritorno Degli ambasciatori (Image by M0tty)

This third painting portrays the ambassadors of Brittany received in an open pavilion, with an imaginary city in the background, resembling contemporary Venetian architecture.

In 1490 Carpaccio began the famous Legend of St. Ursula, for the Venetian Scuola dedicated to that saint. The subject of the works, which are now in the Gallerie dell'Accademia, was drawn from the Golden Legend of Jacopo da Varagine. In 1491 he completed the Glory of St. Ursula altarpiece. Indeed, many of Carpaccio's major works were of this type: large scale detachable wall-paintings for the halls of Venetian scuole, which were charitable and social confraternities. When he completed the cycle in 1498, Venetians delighted in the pageantlike scenes of familiar sights: dogs and pet monkeys, lounging cavaliers, flying flags, and bustling activity everywhere. Three years later he took part in the decoration of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, painting the Miracle of the Relic of the Cross at the Ponte di Rialto.

Being an artist who worked for the middle classes of Venetian society, Carpaccio enjoyed neither the official position nor the aristocratic patronage that fell to the lot of the Bellinis. In the opening decade of the sixteenth century, Carpaccio embarked on the works that have since awarded him the distinction as the foremost orientalist painter of his age. In 1501 he received orders from the Doge's Palace, together with Giovanni Bellini, to decorate the Hall of the Great Council where he painted the "Lion of St. Mark", still to be seen there, and the "Battle of Ancona", destroyed in the fire of 1577 along with many other major works.

While working on the Doge's Place, from 1502 to 1507 he also executed another notable series of panels for the primarily immigrant Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, (Schiavoni meaning "Slavs" in Venetian dialect). Unlike the slightly old-fashioned use of a continuous narrative sequence found in the St. Ursula series, wherein the main characters appear multiple times within each canvas, each work in the Schiavoni series concentrates on a single episode in the lives of the three patron Saints of Dalmatia: St. Jerome, St. George and St. Trifon. These works are thought of as "orientalist" because they offer evidence of a new fascination with the Levant: a distinctly middle-eastern looking landscape takes an increasing role in the images as the backdrop to the religious scenes.

St. George and the Dragon

The St. George tale was enormously popular during the renaissance, and the confrontation between the knight and the dragon was painted by numerous artists. Carpaccio's depiction of the event (1502-7)  thus has a long history; less common is his rendition of the baptism moment. Although unusual in the history of St. George pictures, St. George Baptizing the Selenitess offers a good example of the type of oriental subjects were popular in Venice at the time: great care and attention is given the foreign costumes, and hats are especially significant in indicating the exotic.

In 1508 he was one of the commission appointed to set a valuation upon Giorgione's frescoes at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Dating from 1504-1508 is the cycle of Life of the Virgin for Scuola degli Albanesi, largely executed by assistants, and now divided between the Accademia Carrara of Bergamo, the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan, and the Ca' d'Oro of Venice.

In later years Carpaccio appears to have been influenced by Cima da Conegliano, as evidenced in the Death of the Virgin from 1508, at Ferrara. In 1510 Carpaccio executed the panels of Lamentation on the Dead Christ and The Meditation on the Passion, where the sense of bitter sorrow found in such works by Mantegna is backed by extensive use of allegoric symbolism. Of the same year is a Young Knight in a Landscape, now in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection of Madrid.

In 1515, he painted a Sacra Conversatione painting in the then-Venetian town of Capodistria which is hanging in its Cathedral of the Assumption.

Between 1511 and 1520 he finished five panels on the Life of St. Stephen for the Scuola di Santo Stefano. Carpaccio's late works were mostly done in the Venetian mainland territories, and in collaboration with his sons Benedetto and Piero. One of his pupils was Marco Marziale.

Vittore's two sons, Benedetto and Pietro Scarpazza (who was probably the older), were also painters. Vittore Carpaccio's date of death is given to be c. 1522 or 1526.

Main works:

  • Zara Polyptych (c. 1480-1490) - Museum of Sacred Art, Zadar Cathedral
  • Portrait of Man with Red Beret (1490-1493) - Tempera on wood, 35 x 23 cm, Museo Correr, Venice
  • The Legend of St. Ursula (1490-1496) a cycle of nine canvasses - Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice
    • Arrival of the Ambassadors
    • The Departure of the Ambassadors
    • The Return of the Ambassadors
    • Meeting of Ursula and the Prince
    • The Saint's Dream
    • Meeting of the Pilgrims with the Pope
    • Arrivals of the Pilgrims in Cologne
    • The Martyrdom and the Funeral of St. Ursula
    • Glory of St. Ursula
  • Miracle of the Relic of the Cross at the Ponte di Rialto (The Healing of the Madman, c. 1496) - Tempera on canvas, 365 x 389 cm, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice
  • Christ between Four Angels and the Instruments of the Passion (1496) - Oil on panel, 162 x 163 cm, Civic Museums, Udine
  • The Flight into Egypt (1500) - Tempera on wood, 73 x 111 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  • St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Veneranda (c. 1500) - Tempera on panel, Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona
  • Cycle in San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice (1502-1507- Nine tempera panels, Scuola San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice
    • St. Augustine in His Study
    • St. Jerome and the Lion
    • Funeral of St. Jerome
    • St. George and the Dragon
    • Triumph of St. George
    • Baptism of the Selenites
    • St. Tryphon and the Basilisk
    • Sermon in the Gethsemane
    • Vocation of St. Matthew
  • The Histories of St. Mary (1504-1508)
    • Birth of the Virgin - Tempera on canvas, 126 x 128 cm, Accademia Carrara, Bergamo
    • The Marriage of the Virgin - Canvas, 130 x 140 cm, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
    • The Presentation of the Virgin - Canvas, 130 x 137 cm, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
  • Holy Family and donors (1505) - Tempera on canvas, 90 x 136 cm, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon
  • Holy Conversation (c. 1505) - Tempera on canvas, 92 x 126 cm, Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon
  • The Virgin Reading (1505-1510) - Tempera on canvas, 78 x 51 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  • Madonna and Blessing Child (1505-1510) - Tempera on canvas, 85 x 68 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  • St. Thomas in Glory between St Mark and St Louis of Toulouse (1507) - Tempera on canvas, 264 x 171 cm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart
  • Two Venetian Ladies (c. 1510) - Oil on wood, 94 x 64 cm, Museo Correr, Venice
  • Portrait of a Woman (c. 1510) - Oil on canvas, 102 x 78 cm, Galleria Borghese, Rome
  • Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (1510) - Tempera on panel, 421 x 236 cm, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice
  • Portrait of a Knight (1510) - Tempera on canvas, 218 x 152 cm, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid
  • Portrait of a Young Woman - Panel, 57 x 44 cm, Private collection
  • The Meditation on the Passion (c. 1510) - Oil and tempera on wood, 70,5 x 86,7 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  • St George and the Dragon (1516) - Oil on canvas, 180 x 226 cm, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
  • The Lion of St Mark (1516) - Tempera on canvas, 130 x 368 cm, Doge's Palace, Venice
  • The Dead Christ (c. 1520) - Tempera on canvas, 145 x 185 cm, Staatliche Museen, Berlin
  • Stories from the Life of St. Stephen (1511–1520)
    • St Stephen is Consecrated Deacon (1511) - Tempera on canvas, 148 x 231 cm, Staatliche Museen, Berlin
    • The Sermon of St. Stephen (1514) - Tempera on canvas, 152 x 195 cm, Musée du Louvre, Paris
    • Disputation of St. Stephen (1514) — Tempera on canvas, 147 x 172 cm, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
    • The Stoning of St Stephen (1520) — Tempera on canvas, 142 x 170 cm, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart
  • Virgin and Child With Saint John(1490) Stadel Art Museum,Frankfurt
  • Metamorphosis of Alcyone, (c1502–1507) Philadelphia Museum of Art

Works in Capodistria (Koper):

  • Vittore Carpaccio: Pala d'altare (1516) - Duomo
  • Vittore Carpaccio: Cristo sotto la Croce - Duomo
  • Vittore Carpaccio: Flagellazione - Duomo
  • Vittore Carpaccio: Pala d'altare (1516) - Duomo
  • Vittore Carpaccio: Portella d'organo con Strage degli innocenti e Presentazione al Tempio - Duomo
  • Vittore Carpaccio: Zaccaria e Geremia - Duomo
  • Vittore Carpaccio: Ingresso a Capodistria del Podestà Contarini (1517)
  • Benedetto Carpaccio: Pala d'altare - Duomo
  • Benedetto Carpaccio: Gloria del S.S. Nome di Gesù (1541) - Chiesa di S.Anna
  • Benedetto Carpaccio: Incoronazione della Vergine e madonna col Bambino e santi - Museo

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Created: Friday, March 04, 2011. Last Updated: Last Updated: Sunday, April 10, 2016
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