Vittore Carpaccio

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Missing image
The Dream of St Ursula (1495)
Tempera on canvas, 274 x 267 cm Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Vittore Carpaccio (c.14601525/6) was a Venetian painter who studied under Gentile Bellini. He is best known for the cycle of nine paintings The Legend of Saint Ursula.

The facts of his life are obscure, but his principal works were executed between 1490 and 1519; and he ranks as one of the finest precursors of the great Venetian masters. The date of his birth is conjectural. He 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 sometimes thought, the master) of Lazzaro Bastiani, 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.

For an authoritative and detailed account, see the Life and Works of Vittorio Carpaccio, by Pompeo Molmenti and Gustav Ludwig, Eng. trans. by RH Cust (1907); and the criticism by Roger Fry, "A Genre Painter and his Critics," in the Quarterly Review (London, April 1908).

A gourmet dish made of thinly sliced raw beef is eponymously named carpaccio.

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