Saturday, March 7, 2009

Carlo Crivelli, Italian Renaissance Painter

Carlo Crivelli
The Crucifixion, c. 1487

Carlo Crivelli ( 1435 –1495) was an Italian Renaissance painter of the conservative Late Gothic, decorative style. He spent his career mostly in the Marche, where he absorbed early influences from the Vivarini, Squarcione and Mantegna. He developed a unique personal style that was very different from his Venetian contemporary Giovanni Bellini.

Crivelli was born around 1430-35 in Venice to a family of painters. He developed his style and technique there and in Padua. Unfortunately the details of Crivelli's career are not known. The first appearance of anything about Crivelli that can be found begins when he was already a master of his own shop, in 1457. He was convicted of adultery for which he was imprisoned for six months, we know. The earliest and the latest years signed on his works are 1468 on an altarpiece in the church of San Silvestro at Massa Fermana, near Fermo, and 1493 on The Dead Christ between St John, the Virgin and Mary Magdalene. This work is now in Brera Gallery, Milan, Italy.

Though Carlo Crivelli advertised his Venetian origin in his constant signatures varying upon Carolus Crivellus Venetos ("Carlo Crivelli of Venice"),Crivelli seems to have worked chiefly in Le Marche of Ancona. Most often he worked in and near Ascoli Piceno. There are only two pictures remaining in Venice, in the church of San Sebastiano. He is said to have studied under Jacobello del Fiore, who was painting as late as 1436, however, at that time Crivelli was probably only a boy. He also studied at the school of Vivarini in Venice, then left Venice, initially. It is most likely he went to Padua, where he is believed to have worked in the workshop of Francesco Squarcione and then for Zara in Dalmatia. These regions are now part of Croatia.

He painted in tempera only, despite the increasing popularity of oil painting during his life-time, and on panels, though some of his paintings have been transferred to canvas. His predilection for decoratively punched gilded backgrounds is one of the marks of the conservative taste, in part imposed by his patrons. He was a vegetarian! Of his early polyptychs, only one, the altarpiece from Ascoli Piceno, survives complete in its original frame, sadly. All the others have been taken apart and their panels and predella scenes are scattered today among the world's museums.

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