Study Of Art – Carlo Crivelli 1430?-1495

Carlo Crivelli, a Venetian, as he always signed himself, was trained in the school of the Vivarini, and shows also some Paduan influence. In 1468 he settled in Ascoli, an ancient mountain town in the region known as the Marches. Thus isolated, he perfected his art along the line of early Muranese tradition, uninfluenced by the newer methods and spirit that revolutionized painting in the fifteenth century. Many of his altar-pieces, painted for the towns of the region, have come into northern museums, London, Berlin, and Milan being especially rich in examples. He used only tempera, and with so much perfection that his pictures have remained unchanged throughout the years. He was knighted by Ferdinand of Aragon in 1490.


No. 348. Madonna Enthroned.

Brera, Milan.

On wood, gold background, figures nearly life size; painted in 1493, originally in S. Domenico, Camerino.

Both the Madonna and Child are painted with an appreciation of modeling of the human form and delicacy of flesh tones. Crivelli’s mannerisms appear in the over-refinement of the hands and in the excessive use of garlands of fruit, for which there must have been a local demand. Cf. 349. The effect of the panel is of a rich tapestry, color and pattern being emphasized.

No. 349. Madonna with SS. Peter, Dominic, Peter

Martyr and Gimignano.

Brera, Milan.

On wood, 7 feet in height. Painted in 1482 for S. Domenico, Camerino. The background is gold, the ornaments in high relief gilded. The Madonna and Child are painted with great perfection, and are very beautiful, as is the youthful and manly San Gimignano. St. Peter, robed as first pope, has all of the Byzantine moroseness, while St. Dominic’s piety degenerates into a grimace. In proportion and in harmony of rich color this is one of the most beautiful triptychs of Italian Art.

No. 350. St. Catherine and St. Dominic.

National Gallery, London.

On wood, panels 4 feet high, painted in 1476. Two panels from an ancona of thirteen compartments, arranged in three tiers. The central panel of the Madonna and Child, with the two lower tiers of panels, once formed the altarpiece at S. Domenico, Ascoli. St. Catherine and St. Dominic are in the lower tier at the right. Many of Crivelli’s altarpieces retain the medival form of separate figures painted on narrow panels and set in an elaborate framework.

The decorative feeling is very strong. The figure of St. Dominic, with the long straight lines of his monastic dress, is especially fine. St. Catherine shows Crivelli’s mannerisms in hands and expression; the hands of St. Dominic, on the contrary, are strong and natural.

No. 351. Madonna and Child with Saints.

Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Berlin.

On wood, 6 feet 5 inches by 6 feet 3 inches. Painted 1487 for the church of the Minor Osservanti, Fermo. The Child Jesus gives St. Peter the keys in the presence of Franciscan and local saints. The keys and all the ornaments are in high relief and heavily gilded. Many of the heads have much strength and beauty; the affectation of the Madonna’s hand in its central position is disturbing, though evidently carefully considered. The effect of the picture is of rich brocade on cloth of gold.

Compare Crivelli’s altarpieces with Sienese paintings. Consider the reasons for provincial admiration of these paintings, and their disappearance from the art of Florence and Venice.

No. 352. Annunciation. National Gallery, London.

On wood, 6 feet 10 inches by 4 feet 10 inches. Painted in 1486 for the Santissima Annunziata in Ascoli. St. Emidius, patron saint of the town, kneels beside the angel, holding a model of the town.

Study the picture in all its details; the decorated architecture and richly furnished room, the colors suggested by the peacock and oriental rug above, the beautiful vista with the garden at the back. The painter’s keen delight in all is obvious.

We have here not the mediæval spirituality of Fra Angelico nor the intellectual art of other Florentines, but a development of the same spirit that built St. Mark’s in Venice, derived more from the East than from Italy. Cf. with Francia, 285, with Fra Angelico, 120.