Vittore Carpaccio

(c. 1460—1525)

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(b Venice, c.1460; d Venice, 1525/6).

Venetian painter. His life is poorly documented, and it is not known with whom he trained, but it is generally agreed that the chief influence on his work was Gentile Bellini. This is especially evident in the first of the two great cycles of paintings that are his chief claim to fame—the scenes from the life of St Ursula, executed in the 1490s for the Scuola di S. Orsola and now in the Accademia, Venice. Carpaccio's salient characteristics—his taste for anecdote, and his eye for the crowded detail of the Venetian scene—found their happiest expression in these paintings, one of which, the Miracle of the Cross, looks forward to the 18th-century compositions of Canaletto and Guardi. His other great cycle, mainly on the lives of St George and St Jerome, painted for the Scuola di S. Giorgio degli Schiavone, Venice, in 1502–7 (still in the Scuola), combines fantasy with wittily observed detail. After these two major commissions, however, Carpaccio's work declined in quality, although he still remained busy and continued to attract important patrons. In his later work he did an increasing number of altarpieces, a type of work for which he had little flair. On the other hand he was an excellent portraitist, as is seen particularly in his deservedly famous Two Courtesans (c.1510, Correr Mus., Venice), probably a fragment of a larger work. It was a favourite work of Ruskin, who contributed to the great popularity Carpaccio enjoyed in the 19th century. His fame has perhaps declined somewhat since, but he is still rated as second only to Giovanni Bellini as the outstanding Venetian painter of his generation.

Subjects: Art.

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