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Vittore Carpaccio (Venice 1450-1522), The Lamentation, with the Madonna and Saints Joseph of Arimathea and John the EvangelistEstimation 1,500,000 — 2,000,000 USD. Photo Sotheby’s.

oil on panel; 17 by 14 in.; 43 by 38 cm.

PROVENANCE: Oreste Basilio, Trieste;
From whom acquired in 1934 by Count Alessandro Contini-Bonacossi, Florence;
Thence by descent to the present owner.

EXPOSITION: Venice, Palazzo Ducale, Vittore Carpaccio, 15 June – 6 October 1963, no. 5.

LITTERATURE: G. Fiocco, « New Carpaccios in America, » in Art in America, XXII, 1934, p. 117, reproduced p. 119, fig. 1;
R. Van Marle, The Development of the Italian School of Painting, The Hague 1936, vol. XVIII, p. 326, note 1 (as wrongly attributed to Carpaccio);
G. Fiocco, Carpaccio, Milan 1942, p. 89, cat. no. 2;
B. Berenson, Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Venetian School, London 1957, vol. I, p. 57;
F. Heinemann, Giovanni Bellini e i Belliniani, Venice 1959, vol. I, p. 232, cat. no. V.96;
G. Perocco, Tutta la pittura del Carpaccio, Milan 1960, p. 68, reproduced plate 140;
J. Lauts, Carpaccio, Paintings and Drawings, A Complete Edition, London 1962, p. 242, cat. no. 50, and pp. 27 and 271, reproduced plate 50;
P. Zampetti (ed.), Vittore Carpaccio, exhibition catalogue, 1963, pp. 14-15, cat. no. 5, reproduced;
M. Muraro, Carpaccio, Florence 1966, p. ccxiv, reproduced;
G. Perocco, L’opera completa del Carpaccio, Milan 1967, p. 86, cat. no. 4, reproduced;
Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Rome 1977, vol. XX, p. 573;
M. Muraro (ed.), I disegni di Vittore Carpaccio, exhibition catalogue, Florence 1977, p. 54, under cat. no. 1946-7-13-3, a detail reproduced fig 16c;
V. Sgarbi, Carpaccio, Bologna 1979, p. 22;
P. Humfrey, Carpaccio, Catalogo completo dei dipinti, Florence 1991, p. 16, cat. no. 2, reproduced;
V. Sgarbi, Carpaccio, Milan 1994, p. 221, cat. no. 35, reproduced;
Allgemeines Kunstler-Lexicon, Munich 1997, vol. 16, p. 531;
P. Humfrey, Carpaccio, London 2005, p. 52, reproduced.

Notes: This arresting image was painted by Vittore Carpaccio, one of the rarest and most talented artists of the Venetian Renaissance. Along with Giovanni Bellini, Carpaccio was among the leading protagonists of the ground-breaking artistic developments which took place in Venice at the end of the fifteenth century and he is perhaps best known today for his large narrative cycles produced for the religious confraternities in Venice known as scuole. While the influence of Bellini is inescapable in Carpaccio’s work, the lively style he developed was entirely his own and displays a lyricism and virtuosity unmatched by his contemporaries.

The size of the panel implies it was destined for private devotion, and the pathos with which the body of Christ is presented to the viewer as an object of mournful worship also supports this view. The painting finds echoes in similar works by Bellini such as the grisaille in the Uffizi, Florence.1 Similarly, Carpaccio’s Dead Christ supported by two angels in the Serristori collection in Florence also looks back to Bellini’s treatments of the same subject in the National Gallery, London, and in the Museo Correr, Venice.2

The present composition stands out not only for its overall balance but also for its subtle internal echoes which create rhythm and movement. The artist has painted two perpendicular lines in the composition, running vertically through the center of the design and horizontally through the heads of Mary, Jesus and John, meet at Christ’s neck. A diagonal runs lower left to upper right through Christ’s torso and, again at Christ’s neck, meets the line which runs through the path upper left down to the lower-right corner. Mary and John provide a harmonious frame to the sides of the design. The tilts of the figures’ heads is not accidental: sideways movement is created by the opposing direction of the heads of Joseph and Jesus in the center, as well as those of Jesus and John to the right. Perhaps the most enjoyable detail is the repetition of the contours of the winding path upper left in Joseph’s sleeve, to the right of Christ’s head.

The central figure is repeated in the majestic Meditation on Christ’s Passion (fig. 1) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, which can be dated to 1508-15, as well as in a panel sold London, Christie’s, 7 December 2010, lot 2.3 Presumably these are all based on the preparatory drawing for the body of Christ (fig. 2) on the verso of a study in the British Museum, London, for the Arrival in Rome from the cycle for the Scuola di Sant’Orsola, Carpaccio’s earliest extant dated work (now in the Accademia, Venice).4 The Orsola cycle dates to the 1490s, so either the present work is from a similar date, as proposed by many scholars, among them Humfrey and Berenson, or, as proposed by Sgarbi and Muraro, the panel was produced later, circa 1508-11, which would mean that the artist kept his sheet and used his study of Christ’s torso some twenty years after producing the drawing.


Vittore Carpaccio, The Meditation on the Passion, c.1490. Oil and tempera on wood, 66.5 x 84.5 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


figure 2

1. See T. Pignatti, L’opera completa di Giovanni Bellini detto Giambellino, Milan 1969, p. 103, cat. no. 153, reproduced.
2. Ibid., p. 94, cat. no. 69, reproduced; and p. 87, cat. no. 21 reproduced in color plate V.
3. See Perocco 1967, under Literature, pp. 48-49, cat. no 48, reprodcued in color plate IL.
4. Ibid., pp. 88-92, cat. no. 13, reproduced.

Sotheby’s. Master Paintings: Part I. New York | 29 janv. 2015, 10:00 AM