Vittore Carpaccio

Vittore Carpaccio

Sacra Conversazione

ca. 1500–1512
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over red chalk; brown ink border at left, top and right; left, top and right edges marked off for transfer

Gift of the Thaw Collection, 2006

Item description: 

This drawing is a late compositional study for Carpaccio's panel painting of the Virgin and Child with Four Saints in the Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon. The Virgin and Christ Child with Saint John the Baptist and two female saints are set against a complex landscape background inhabited by three hermit saints. At center left, Augustine speaks to the small child; Jerome stands on the rocky arch; and Anthony Abbot sits just inside a small hut surmounted by a cross.

Exhibition label: 

This is Carpaccio's compositional study for a panel painting of about 1500–1512 (Musée du Petit Palais, Avignon). The complex and somewhat bizarre landscape provides the setting for three hermit saints: Augustine, Jerome, and one generally identified as Anthony Abbot, all of whom are described with Carpaccio's typical anecdotal detail. The drawing is one of the earliest in European art to integrate figures into a finished landscape.

Exhibition section: 

Landscape and Pastoral

Today Venice evokes images of a picturesque city rising from the sea. Yet sixteenth-century Venetian artists rarely depicted the lagoon or its atmospheric effects. Instead they documented alpine vistas or created fantastical scenes. Landscape was such an important element of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Venetian painting and drawing that it often dominated even works with mythological or religious subjects. This trend was very much in keeping with the strong interest in the natural world that emerged during the Renaissance, when many artists began to rely on direct observation rather than inherited models. Inspired by the works of the ancient poet Virgil, Venetian humanists extolled the simplicity of pastoral life, and writers, composers, and artists alike embraced Arcadian themes of love, poetry, and music.