Artibus et Historiae no. 18 (IX)

1988, ISSN 0391-9064

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AUGUSTO GENTILI - New Documentation and the Background for the Later Works of Carpaccio. Part II: the Canvases for the School of San Stefano in Venice

In the light of new documentation and a resulting evaluation of the later activity of Vittore Carpaccio, this study examines the canvases with episodes of the "Stories of S. Stefano", carried out in the years 1511-20 for the Venetian Confraternity named after this martyr of the early Church.

An iconological analysis brings to light, as the cycle proceeds, a progressive accentuation of anti-Jewish sentiment, corresponding to the situation in Venice at the time, just before and after the setting up of the Ghetto Novo in 1516.

A careful examination of the mariegola, the school records, permits us to ascertain that, contrary to popular opinion, the friars who commissioned the cycle were not spinners and weavers of wool, but artisans of various kinds and varying levels of skill, with stone cutters of Lombard origin predominating. In the highest official positions of the school there appear prominent artists like Giovanni Buora, Pietro Lombardo, and Manfredo di Paolo da Bisson. Furthermore, a comparison of these facts with the mariegola provides us with the political reasons for the increasing number of stone cutters in this small devotional school of S. Stefano.

To these sponsors corresponds the repeated symbolism in the canvases of the motif of the stone, the most telling examples of which are the two extraordinary monuments painted in the background of the Dispute. In this same canvas Vittore Carpaccio and Giovanni Bellini can be identified among the friars, which goes to show how painters, on the one hand, and sculptors and architects, on the other, got on in a spirit of cooperation in Venice in the early 1500's.

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