Antonio VivariniAntonio was the eldest of the Vivarini family of painters. Sometimes called ‘Antonio da Murano’, he was a son of a glassmaker from the island. He was probably born around 1418-20 and was established as a painter by 1440, when he signed and dated an altarpiece for a church in Parenzo (Porec in Croatia). He built up a flourishing workshop, which in early Renaissance Venice was second in importance only to that of Jacopo Bellini.
While the altarpiece at Parenzo is signed by Antonio alone, his major early works were generally painted in collaboration with his brother-in-law Giovanni d’Alemagna (‘John the German’). Giovanni d'Alemagna is a shadowy figure. He is possibly identical with Giovanni da Ulma, who was commissioned in 1437 to fresco the Palazzo Vescovile in Padua. If so, he would have been considerably older than Antonio Vivarini and, presumably, the senior artist in the partnership. The styles of the two painters are hard to distinguish; but the one painting signed independently by Giovanni (a Saint Jerome of 1444 at Baltimore) suggests that his work tends to be more Gothic, flatter, and more decorative and detailed than Antonio’s. Between 1441 and 1446, they jointly signed a number of altarpieces for Venetian churches. In 1447-49, they worked together in Padua, where they produced two more altarpieces (one now in Prague and the other in the Brera) and decorated the vault of the Ovetari Chapel in the church of the Eremitani with frescoes of the Four Evangelists (destroyed in 1944).
After Giovanni’s death in 1450, Antonio collaborated with his younger brother Bartolomeo. Between 1450 and 1458, they jointly signed several altarpieces; these, too, are so homogeneous in style that it is virtually impossible to distinguish the different hands. The two brothers then appear to have separated, and each worked alone. Antonio’s last securely dated work is a polyptych painted in 1464 for a confraternity in Pesaro (now in the Vatican Pinacoteca). A panel in Bari from a polyptych from the church of Santa Maria Vetere in Andria is inscribed with Antonio’s name and the date 1467; while the inscription is not original, the date may be correct.
The Vivarini workshop is often seen as representing the conservative tendency in Venetian painting and the Bellini workshop the progressive one. Antonio’s style combines both Gothic and Renaissance elements, and evolved little during the course of his comparatively long career. Nothing is known about his training, but he was probably influenced variously by the Venetian works (now lost) of Gentile da Fabriano and Pisanello, by German art (presumably through Giovanni d’Alemagna) and by the innovations of Florentine artists (Donatello, Castagno, Uccello and Filippo Lippi) working in Padua and Venice. His figures are solidly three-dimensional and consistently modelled by light and shadow, but tend to be expressionless and lacking in drama. The altarpieces produced by his workshop include many painted and gilded polyptychs, late Gothic in form and often of great complexity. These vary considerably in quality; those done late in Antonio’s career for provincial churches in the Marches and Apulia appear to have been executed with much workshop assistance. Antonio (either with or without Giovanni d’Alemagna) also painted several series of small panels with scenes from saints’ lives, which have considerable narrative charm.
Andria (near Bari). Convent of Santa Maria Vetere.
St Clare; St Augustine; St Bernardino. Wood, each 63 x 40.
St Clare of Assisi is represented as abbess of San Damiano; St Augustine is represented as bishop of Hippo; and St Bernardino of Siena is represented as a Franciscan preacher, holding a book and his famous monogram of the Holy Name of Jesus. These three panels of half-length saints come from the upper tier of a polyptych painted by Antonio Vivarini’s workshop for the Observant Franciscan convent in 1467(?). Five other panels from the polyptych are in the museum at Bari.
Arbe (Rab in Croatia). Convent of Santa Eufemia.
The centre panel (124 x 55) of the lower tier shows St Bernardino of Siena and the side panels (107 x 35) depict full-length figures of Saints Peter, Francis, Christopher and Anthony of Padua. The Madonna and Child (81 x 35) is in the centre of the upper tier, with half-lengths (63 x 35) of Saints Jerome, John the Baptist, Giustina and Louis of Toulouse(?) at the sides. Signed by Antonio and Bartolomeo Vivarini and dated 1458. It is the last work jointly signed by the brothers. Antonio's sweeter, more gentle figures in the upper tier contrast with Bartolomeo's more linear saints below. The inscription identifies the frame-maker as 'Francisus' (possibly the Lombard wood carver Francesco Moranzone, who is known to have made frames for Michele Giambono).
Avignon. Musée du Petit Palais.
St Petronius and St James the Great; St John the Baptist and St Louis of Toulouse. Wood, 79/78 x 63/65.
These two pairs of three-quarter length saints were the side panels of an altarpiece. The centre panel has been identified as the Virgin adoring the Child in the Davia Bargellini Museum in Bologna. Both panels were acquired by the French State in 1861 with the vast Campana collection. The St Petronius and St James was formerly at Reims and the St John the Baptist and St Louis of Toulouse at Bayeux.
Bari. Pinacoteca Provinciale.
Panels from Polyptych. Wood.
Five panels from a polyptych painted for the church of Santa Maria Vetere at Andria (near Bari). Four are side panels (each 107 x 37/38) of standing saints: Louis of Toulouse, Francis of Assisi, John the Baptist, and Anthony of Padua. The other is the Ecce Homo (68 x 47) that occupied the centre of the upper tier. The polyptych consisted originally of ten panels. Three half-length figures of saints from the upper tier are still at Andria. The centre panel, which probably represented the Madonna and Child Enthroned, is lost. The panel representing St Anthony is inscribed with Anthony Vivarini’s name and the date 1467. The inscription is certainly not original, but may have been copied from a genuine signature and date on the lost centre panel. The polyptych is not one of Antonio’s better works and extensive workshop participation is likely. The Franciscan convent at Andria was closed in 1866 and the five panels from the polyptych were transferred to the Bari Pinacoteca in 1891. Restoration in 2013 included removing old, discoloured repaint from the Ecce Homo and treating the panels for an infestation of termites.
Madonna and Child between St Benedict and St Scholastica. Wood, 137 x 94.
These three panels were not originally a triptych but formed part of a seven-panel polyptych. The other four panels (representing St Anthony Abbot, St Catherine, John the Baptist and another saint) are all lost. The polyptych is first recorded, as the work of an unknown artist, in the 1880s in the church of Santa Maria d'Aurio at Surbo, near Lecce. This little village church is unlikely to have been its original location, and it may have been painted for the Benedictine monastery (Santi Niccolò e Cataldo) at Lecce. After passing into private hands, it was purchased by the Italian State in 1927 and deposited with the museum at Taranto. The three surviving panels were reallocated to Bari in 1967. Their attribution has been disputed. They have sometimes been considered youthful works of Bartolomeo Vivarini (eg. by Berenson in his 1957 Lists and Pallucchini in his standard 1962 volume on the Vivarini). However, since a restoration of 1996-97, they have been catalogued by the museum as works of Antonio Vivarini.
Bassano. Museo Civico.
St Apollonia Dragged by a Horse. Wood, 52 x 33.
One of several small panels showing scenes from the life of the aged virgin martyr. Two others are at Bergamo and one at Washington. The authorship of the panels was much discussed in the first half of the twentieth century, with opinion divided over whether they are likely to be Venetian or Tuscan. The first published attribution of the Bassano panel (1904) was to Jacopo Bellini. The attribution to Antonio Vivarini was made in 1926 (by Roberto Longhi in Vita Artistica). There were subsequent attributions to Dello Delli (Fiocco), a ‘Venetian master between Antonio Vivarini and Masolino’ (Berenson), Francesco de’ Franceschi (van Marle), Domenico Veneziano or his workshop (Coletti) and the eponymous ‘Maestro dei Martiri’ (Pallucchini), but the panels are now usually accepted as works of Antonio Vivarini and/or Giovanni d’Alemagna. There has been a recent tendency (since the discovery of the signature on Giovanni d’Alemagna’s Saint James at Baltimore) to attribute the four panels to Giovanni alone. Bequeathed to the museum in 1876 by Giuseppe Riva.
Bergamo. Accademia Carrara.
Martyrdom of St Apollonia. Two panels, each 52/54 x 29/22.
Apollonia, daughter of a pagan king, was tortured by her father to make her renounce her Christian faith. One panel shows her having her teeth pulled out and the other (previously thought to represent St Lucy) her being blinded. The panels, along with others at Bassano and Washington, are thought to have belonged to a series of eight showing scenes from the life of the saint. They were probably part of an altarpiece – arranged four on each side of a central painting or statue of the saint. They are highly decorative and brightly coloured, and reveal an interest in ancient monuments and in the use of perspective. Bequeathed in 1901 by the widow of Carlo Marenzi.
St Ambrose baptises St Augustine. Wood, 38 x 26.
The subject is inscribed along the bottom of the panel. One of a series of small panels showing scenes from the Life of St Monica (Augustine’s mother). Four others are known: the Marriage of St Monica (Accademia, Venice), Birth of St Augustine (Courtauld Institute, London), Conversion of Patricius (Detroit Institute of Arts) and St Monica in Prayer (Museo Amedeo Lia, La Spezia). There may have been eight in all. They came from a chapel dedicated to St Monica in the Augustinian church of Santo Stefano, where they were described by Ridolfi (1648). Their original arrangement is not recorded, but they are likely to have been framed either side of a wooden statue of the saint. After the altar was rededicated in 1733/4, the altarpiece was transferred to a sister Augustinian church at Spilimbergo. It was later dismantled and the panels dispersed. The five surviving panels were discovered between 1930 and 1951. They have all been cut down and are now slightly different sizes. The Baptism panel entered the Accademia Carrara in 1866 with the bequest of the Lochis collection.
Adoration of the Magi. Wood, 111 x 176.
In the sky above the stable, God the Father is surrounded by angels sounding trumpets. On the right, the Magi’s retinue wind through a valley. The city of Jerusalem is seen in the hills in the left distance. The horseman on the far right, seen from the rear, seems to be derived from Pisanello's famous medal of Emperor John VIII Palaeologus. The vessels, ornaments and rays of light have been modelled in gesso and gilded. The attribution to Antonio Vivarini is traditional. It seems to be an early work, painted during the period of collaboration with Giovanni d’Alemagna. Acquired in Venice in 1844 from the heirs of Capitano Gasparo Craglietti. The top, originally rounded, has been restored.
Two Scenes from the Life of St Peter Martyr. Wood, 54 x 36.
One panel shows the saint converting a heretic by demonstrating that his Dominican cloak would not burn when thrown upon the fire. The onlookers in Oriental costume on the left represent Muslims converted by the saint. The other panel shows the saint’s investiture into the Dominican Order. From a series of small panels representing scenes from the Life of St Peter Martyr. Several others have been identified – one in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and the others in private hands. They are likely to have been painted for a Dominican foundation, but their original location is unknown. The two Berlin panels were acquired in 1821 with the Solly collection. Thought in the nineteenth century to represent St Bernard and catalogued as ‘manner of Masaccio’ or ‘Florentine School’. Pudelko (in a 1937 article in Pantheon) was the first to recognise that the scenes showed St Peter Martyr and to attribute them to Antonio Vivarini. The tops were originally arched.
Scenes from the Life of the Virgin. Wood, each 39 x 24.
The six panels represent: the Birth of the Virgin; Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple; Marriage of the Virgin; Adoration of the Magi; Presentation of Christ in the Temple (with a nun as donor); and Coronation of the Virgin. The series is almost certainly incomplete. The panels were probably part of an altarpiece that had scenes from the Virgin’s life on either side of a central panel (or statue). They may date from the mid-1440s. Acquired in 1821 with the Solly collection. In the nineteenth century, they were ascribed to the School of Gentile da Fabriano.
Assumption of St Mary Magdalene. Wood, 103 x 44.
The saint, whose naked body is concealed by her flowing hair, is lifted up to heaven by six angels. Possibly the painting of this subject recorded, as a work of Giambono, by Francesco Sansovino (1581) in the church of Santa Maria delle Vergine. The attribution to Antonio Vivarini was made by Crowe and Cavalcaselle (1871). Pallucchini (1961) suggests collaboration between Antonio and the youthful Bartolomeo Vivarini. From the Solly collection.
Bologna. Pinacoteca Nazionale.
Dead Christ. Wood, 58 x 41.
The dead Christ, standing in the sepulchre, displays the wounds in his hands. From the Clarissan convent in Bologna. It was normal for such a panel of the Dead Christ to occupy the centre of the upper tier of a polyptych. A Virgin and Child Enthroned in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan, was possibly the centre panel of the altarpiece, which might also have included panels of saints in the Louvre and the Seminario Patriarcale at Venice.
‘Certosa Polyptych’. Wood, 393 x 263.
In the centre panel, the Virgin is crowned Queen of Heaven by angels. The Child has fallen asleep in her lap – an image that is usually thought to prefigure Christ’s death. Above, the dead Christ stands in the sepulchre between two angels. The standing saints in the main tier are Mark (or the Blessed Lorenzo Giustiniani), Jerome, John the Baptist and Nicholas. The half-length saints in the upper tier are Peter, Gregory the Great, Petronius (?) and Paul. The pinnacles of the extraordinarily elaborate Gothic frame are surmounted by figures of prophets with scrolls and saints praying and, in the centre, a carved image of God the Father blessing. Signed by Antonio and Bartolomeo Vivarini and dated 1450. It is the earliest work signed by both brothers. From the church of San Girolamo della Certosa at Bologna. The important commission was given by Pope Nicholas V in memory of Cardinal Albergati.
Bologna. Museo Davia Bargellini.
Virgin adoring the Child. Wood, 63 x 43.
The Child is asleep on the Virgin’s lap and her hands are joined over him in prayer. The theme of the Virgin adoring the sleeping Child occurs in a number of paintings by the Vivarini (including the centre panel of the ‘Certosa Polyptych’, signed by Antonio and Bartolomeo, and several Madonnas by Bartolomeo and by Alvise). The (repainted) date has been read as 1463 or 1464. Probably the centre panel of an altarpiece. Two pairs of three-quarter length saints at Avignon are thought to have been side panels.
Brescia. Museo Diocesano.
‘St Ursula Altarpiece’. Wood.
The centre panel (170 x 95) shows St Ursula, a banner in each hand, with her many Virgin companions, who disappear behind one another into the distance. The two side panels depict St Peter (146 x 53) and St Paul (161 x 66). The three panels come from a dismembered polyptych that probably included at least two more panels of saints. From the church of San Pietro in Oliveto in Brescia, where it is first recorded in 1620 with an attribution to Vincenzo Foppa. By 1834, it had been broken up and only the three surviving panels were together. The attribution to Antonio Vivarini was published in 1871 by Crowe and Cavalcaselle. It is often regarded as an early work (around 1440-45), painted in collaboration with Giovanni d’Alemagna. However, the close similarity of the two saints in the side panels to those in the altarpiece, dated 1451, at Prague would suggest a slightly later dating. The composition of the centre panel was adapted some hundred years later by Alessandro Moretto for two altarpieces of the same subject. (One is still in the Brescian church of San Clemente and the other, originally in the convent of Santa Maria Maddalena, is now in the Castello Sforzesco at MIlan.)
Città di Castello. Pinacoteca Comunale.
Virgin and Child Enthroned. Wood, 134 x 67.
The Virgin, enthroned as Queen of Heaven, wears a richly brocaded mantle and ornate crown. The Child, dressed in red, stands on her knee and raises his right hand in blessing. The panel was presumably the central part of a polyptych, but its provenance is unknown. (One suggestion is that it came from the Polyptych of the Virgin, painted by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d'Alemagna for the main altar of the Cappella di San Tarasio in the Venetian church of San Zaccaria.) Previously much restored; the removal of repaint has exposed losses at the bottom and along the sides of the panel.
Corridonia (near Macerata). Museo della Collegiata.
Parts of a Dismembered Polyptych.
There are full-length figures of Saints Nicholas, Peter, Paul and George, and half-lengths of Saints Catherine and Mary Magdalene. The polyptych from which these fragments belonged is traditionally said to have been dated 1462.
Gazzada (Varese). Villa Cagnola.
Triptych. Wood, 200 x 170.
In the centre is a carved and gilded wooden group of the Annunciation. At the sides are painted panels depicting St Augustine and St Philip Benizzi. Signed by Antonio and Bartolomeo Vivarini and dated 1452. Painted for the Servite convent of Santissima Annunziata at Rovato, near Brescia. The church still has a copy of the triptych, which was sold in 1902.
Houston (Texas). Museum of Fine Arts.
Virgin and Child Enthroned. Wood (transferred), 88 x 44.
The Virgin, richly attired in a red mantle embroidered with large pomegranates, folds her hands in prayer over the Child, who lies naked across her lap. Generally considered an early work of Antonio Vivarini, close in style to the Parenzo Polyptych of 1440(?) and pre-dating the partnership with Giovanni d'Alemagna. It was originally the central part of a pentaptych. The four side panels (identified by Federico Zeri in 1971) represented Saints Christopher, Nicholas of Bari, James the Great and Anthony Abbot. They were sold in Rome in 1907 with the collection of Robert Jenkins Nevin, pastor of the American Episcopalian Church, and were later in private collections in New York and London. The Virgin and Child Enthroned, formerly in the Earl of Northesk's collection at Arbroath, was one of some eighty works of art bequeathed to the Houston museum in 1944 by Percy Selden Straus (whose family owned Macy's department store in Manhattan). Restored in the 1970s, when, in an effort to arrest cracking, the tempera paint layer was transferred to a modern 'honeycomb' panel. There was another restoration in 2013-14, when eye-surgery scalpels were used to clean the delicate punchwork.
London. National Gallery.
SS. Peter and Jerome; SS. Francis and Mark. Wood, 140/136 x 45.
The saints’ names are inscribed on the ornately cusped pedestals. The panels are usually ascribed to a collaboration between Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna. They were the wings of a triptych, the centre panel of which was the Virgin and Child Enthroned in the church (now museum) of San Tommaso Beckett in Padua. The SS. Peter and Jerome was acquired from a private collection in Bologna by Sir Charles Eastlake, whose widow sold it to the National Gallery in 1867. The SS. Francis and Mark, which is less well preserved, was bought in 1889 from the art historian Jean Paul Richter.
London. Courtauld Institute.
Birth of St Augustine. Wood, 33 x 25.
In a richly furnished bedchamber, the midwife hands the swaddled baby Augustine to the mother, St Monica. One of a series of small panels showing scenes from the Life of St Monica. Others are at Bergamo, Detroit and La Spezia (Museo Amedeo Lia). They formed part of an altarpiece in the Augustinian church of Santo Stefano in Venice. Bequeathed to London University in 1947 with the collection of Lord Lee of Fareham.
‘Praglia Polyptych’. Wood.
The polyptych comprises fourteen quite small panels, arranged in two tiers. The centre panel of the main tier (67 x 33) shows the Madonna and Child enthroned with a tiny kneeling donor. Above it is a Pietà with the Virgin and St John (47 x 22). The six full-length saints (each 62 x 22) in the lower tier are Augustine, Benedict, John the Baptist, Jerome, Bernard (or Bruno?) and Prosdocimus. The six three-quarter length saints (each 42 x 22) in the upper tier are Scolastica, Gregory the Great, Peter, Paul, Ambrose and Giustina. The original frame is lost. The gold leaf used for the backgrounds has largely disappeared, leaving only the red bole underlayer. The polyptych is first recorded in the late eighteenth century, when it was in the small, remote church of Sant'Eusebio di Valsanzibio in the Euganean Hills, near Padua. A short time later, it was transferred to the neighbouring abbey of Santa Maria di Praglia, which was very probably its original home. It was seized by the Napoleonic administrators in 1811 and sent to the Brera. The polyptych is neither signed nor dated, but there is good circumstantial evidence that it was painted by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna for the high altar of the Benedictine abbey at Praglia in 1448. In that year, the two artists are documented in Padua (where in May they contracted, along with Niccolò Pizzolo and the young Andrea Mantegna, to decorate the Ovetari Chapel of the church of the Eremitani) and the abbey joined the congregation of Santa Giustina at Padua. The donor kneeling at the Virgin's feet is probably the abbot, Cipriano Rinaldini.
Milan. Poldi Pezzoli Museum.
Madonna and Child Enthroned with Two Angels. Wood, 189 x 102.
The Queen of Heaven, seated on a golden throne with massive Gothic pinnacles, supports the standing Child on her knee. Her gilded crown is modelled in gesso. Two diminutive angels stand behind the pinnacles of the throne. Probably the central panel of a large polyptych produced in the 1440s by the partnership of Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna. The polyptych has not been identified with any documented altarpiece. Federico Zeri conjectured that it might also have included the panels of St Ambrose and St Nicholas (Seminario Patriarcale, Venice), St Louis of Toulouse (Louvre) and the Dead Christ (Bologna). The Madonna Enthroned was among the pictures bequeathed by Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli to the City of Milan in 1879. Like many other works in the bequest, it had been radically restored by the Milanese painter Giuseppe Molteni. There was a further restoration in 1941. Parts of the picture (including the Virgin's face and mantle) are heavily retouched, the Virgin's crown has lost its original semi-precious stones, and much of the goldwork is modern.
New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery.
Madonna Enthroned. Wood, 116 x 65.
The Child, standing on the Virgin's knee, reaches up energetically to grasp the neck of her dress, while she supports his right foot with her left hand. Strings of fruit hang down the sides of the throne, and four diminutive angels play musical instruments. Probably the central panel of a dispersed polyptych. Nothing is known of its history before 1907, when it was sold at Rome with the collection of Robert Jenkins Nevin, pastor of the American Episopalian Church. It entered the Yale Gallery in 1959 with the Rabinowitz bequest. It has usually been considered an early work of Bartolomeo Vivarini, but the gallery now favours an attribution to Antonio. It probably dates from around the early 1460s, when the brothers were working independently but in a similar style.
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
Miracle of St Peter Martyr. Wood, 53 x 33.
St Peter Martyr heals the leg of a young man, which the young man had cut off in remorse after kicking his mother. One of a series of small panels showing scenes from the life of the Dominican saint. There are two others in Berlin, another in Chicago and several more in private collections; there may have been eight in all. Acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1937 from Contini Bonacossi and donated to the Metropolitan Museum the same year.
Osimo. Museo Civico.
‘Coronation of the Virgin Polyptych’. Wood, 208 x 244.
The main tier comprises a central panel of the Coronation of the Virgin and four panels of standing saints (a Bishop, Francis, Peter and Anthony of Padua). The upper tier has a Pietà in the centre and half-lengths of Mary Magdalene, Jerome, John the Baptist and Catherine of Alexandria at the sides. The polyptych was made for the Franciscan Observant church of Annunziata Vecchia and later moved to the new church of Annunziata Nuova at Osimo. According to a seventeenth-century source, it was signed by Antonio and Bartolomeo Vivarini and dated 1464. The frame is original but incomplete (pinnacles and crockets are missing).
Padua. Museo di San Tommaso Beckett Martire.
Virgin and Child Enthroned. Wood, 148 x 67.
The Queen of Heaven, seated in a richly ornamented throne and wearing a crown of gilded gesso, supports the standing Child on her knee. The panel was the central part of a triptych. The wings have been identified (in an article by Pudelko in the 1937 Burlington Magazine) as the panels of SS. Peter and Jerome and SS. Francis and Mark in the National Gallery, London. The ornately shaped stone pedestals, the low wall with Gothic tracery and the high rose hedge are continuous across all three panels. The triptych was not painted for San Tommaso, and the Virgin and Child Enthroned was given to the church in the eighteenth century. A triptych with wings representing the same saints as the National Gallery panels is recorded by Boschini (1664) in the Venetian church of San Moise. Almost certainly an early work, dating from the period of collaboration between Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna. Restored in 2014.
Saint Louis of Toulouse. Wood, 46 x 36.
The young bishop is identified by the Angevin fleurs-de-lis embroidered on his cope. The small panel came from a polyptych that may have had the Virgin and Child Enthroned in the Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan, as its centre panel. Acquired in 1818 from the French painter Pierre Henri Révoli.
Philadelphia. Museum of Art (J. G. Johnson Collection).
St Bernardino of Siena. Wood, 111 x 33.
The saint holds a Bible and his monogram with the Holy Name of Jesus. His head is very like that of the St Bernardino in the central panel of the triptych by Antonio Vivarini in the church of San Francesco della Vigna at Venice . Evidently a side panel from a polyptych.
Porec (Parenzo). Basilica Eufrasiana.
Polyptych. Wood, 180 x 220.
The lower tier shows the Virgin and Child enthroned in the centre and four panels of standing saints (Nicholas, Simeon, Francis and James the Great) at the sides. The upper tier has the Dead Christ in the centre and four half-length saints (Mary Magdalene, Christopher, Anthony Abbot and Catherine of Alexandria) at the sides. Signed, by Antonio Vivarini alone, and dated 1440(?) on the steps of the Virgin’s throne. Usually cited as Vivarini’s first dated work, though the reading of the date has sometimes been disputed. The frame, previously very damaged, has been recently restored.
Prague. National Gallery (Sternberg Palace).
The centre panel (131 x 60) shows the Nativity. The Virgin adores the Child, St Joseph sleeps on the right and an angel brings the good news to the shepherds in the distant hills. The four standing saints at the sides (each 114 x 32) are Francis, Bartholomew, Nicholas of Tolentino (or Vincent Ferrer) and Anthony of Padua. From the church of San Francesco at Padua. Signed by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna and dated 1447 on the frame, which was carved by one Cristoforo da Ferrara. It remained over a side altar of the church until the late eighteenth century, when it was acquired by Tommaso degli Obizzi and then passed into the Este collection at Konopiste Castle. Transferred to the Prague museum in 1939.
St Peter (115 x 41); St Paul (115x 41); Dead Christ (47 x 38).
Three panels from a polyptych painted by Antonio and Bartolomeo Vivarini in 1451 for the high altar of the church of San Francesco at Padua. The polyptych is described in several early sources (including the sixteenth-century manuscript notes compiled by the Venetian aristocrat Marcantonio Michiel). The centre panel of the main tier, representing St Francis of Assisi, is lost. The St Peter and St Paul were two of the four side panels, while the Dead Christ would have occupied the centre top of the frame. Two half-figures of saints at Vienna are from the upper tier, which may also have included a damaged Virgin and Child in the Worcester Art Museum. Also from the Este collection at Konopiste Castle.
Crucifixion. Wood, 95 x 44.
Another picture from the Este collection. The composition is complex and rich in religious imagery. In the centre, there is a conventional Crucifixion scene. The swooning Virgin is attended by the Holy Women and St John, Mary Magdalene embraces the foot of the cross, the soldiers throw dice, and the Centurion declares Christ to be the Son of God. At the top of the cross, the pelican feeds its young with its own blood. Beneath the base of the cross, the rock of Golgotha has cracked open and the dead, led by Adam and Eve, emerge from Limbo. In the corners of the panel, there are symbols of the Evangelists. Down the sides, there are Prophets with scrolls. There have been differences of view about the exact attribution and dating of the panel – which has been variously judged a work of collaboration between Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d'Alemagna dating from the 1440s, a work of Antonio Vivarini alone, and a late product of Antonio Vivarini's workshop dating from the late 1450s or early 1460s.
Ravenna. Museo d'Arte.
Crucifixion. Wood, 70 x 53.
The Virgin and the Holy Women appear on the left; the Magdalen embraces the cross; St John grieves on the right; Longinus pierces Christ's side with his lance; and soldiers throw dice in the foreground. This rather abraded panel bears some similarities of style and composition with the Crucifixion at Prague. It has been attributed either to Antonio Vivarini (and/or his workshop) or to Giovanni d'Alemagna (as an early work, painted before his partnership with Antonio).
Rome. Vatican Pinacoteca.
‘Pesaro Polyptych’. Wood.
In the centre of the main tier is a carved wooden statue of St Anthony Abbot enthroned. At the sides are full-length panels (105 x 30) of Saints Sebastian, Christopher, Venantius and Roch. In the upper tier, there is a Pietà (80 x 50) in the centre, with half-quarter length panels (53 x 30) of Saints Jerome, Peter, Paul and Louis of Toulouse at the sides. Signed (by Antonio Vivarini alone) and dated 1464. From the Confraternita di Sant’Antonio at Pesaro. The saints in the upper tier appear to be by a different (and inferior) hand to those in the lower tier. The ornate Gothic frame (complete with foliate crockets, pinnacles with half-figures of prophets and a canopy over the Pietà in the upper tier) is much in the style of the frames carved by Lodovico da Forlì some twenty years earlier for the polyptychs in San Zaccaria.
La Spezia. Museo Amedeo Lia.
St Monica in Prayer. Wood, 30 x 21.
An angel appears to St Monica as she prays in church; her son Augustine stands behind her, lost in meditation. One of a series of small panels showing scenes from the Life of St Monica; others are at Bergamo, Detroit, London (Courtauld Institute) and Venice (Accademia). They belonged to an altarpiece in the church of Santo Stefano at Venice. All the panels have been cut down, the La Spezia one especially so. Acquired by Amedeo Lia by 1966.
Turin. Museo Civico.
Coronation of the Virgin. Wood, 160 x 98.
Probably the centre panel of a triptych. Nothing appears to be known about its provenance. Possibly a work of collaboration between Antonio and Bartolomeo Vivarini. Much damaged; repaint was removed in a 1957 restoration.
The centre canvas (344 x 203) shows the Virgin crowned as Queen of Heaven and seated on a richly foliated Gothic throne. The nearly naked Child stands on her knee. Four tiny angels hold the poles of the canopy. The wings (each 344 x 137) show the four Doctors of the Church: Jerome (holding a model of the church and his Vulgate Bible), Gregory (with papal tiara), Ambrose (holding a knotted scourge) and Augustine (with book). The figures stand on a cusped plinth, within a courtyard enclosed by castellated golden walls. Signed by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni Alemagna and dated 1446. This large and sumptuous triptych was painted for the Sala dell’Albergo of the Scuola di Santa Maria della Carità, and it still occupies the room in which it originally hung. According to Ridolfi's description, it did not function as an altarpiece but was placed above the Scuola's banco – the bench upon which the governors sat in committee. The Scuola was suppressed early in the nineteenth century and its buildings converted into the present art gallery. The triptych is one of the earliest surviving Venetian paintings to use a canvas support. The frame (destroyed in 1811) was probably comparatively plain.
Marriage of St Monica. Wood, 37 x 32.
From the Augustinian church of Santo Stefano at Venice, where it formed part of an altarpiece in a chapel dedicated to St Monica. Other panels from the altarpiece, all showing scenes from the Life of St Monica, are at Bergamo, Detroit, London (Courtauld Institute) and La Spezia (Museo Amedeo Lia). Bequeathed to the Accademia in 1816 with the collection of Girolamo Molin. Much abraded.
Madonna and Child Blessing. Wood, 56 x 41.
This small, intimate, gold-ground devotional panel came to the Accademia in 1959 from San Giorgio delle Pertiche. According to an inscription on the back of the panel, it was restored in 1711. Datings have ranged from the early 1440s to mid-1450s.
Venice. Ca d’Oro.
Crucifixion and Scenes from the Passion. Wood, 66 x 208.
In the centre is a scene of the Crucifixion, with the Virgin and St John at the sides and Mary Magdalene kneeling at the foot of the cross. At the sides are twelve scenes from Christ’s Passion. From the church of Corpus Domini at Venice. Taken to Austria, but returned in 1919 as part of the First World War reparations. Attributed by Pallucchini (1961) to Antonio Vivarini and a collaborator (possibly Francesco dei Franceschi). Some recent critics have seen the hand of Giovanni d’Alemagna.
Venice. Seminario Patriarcale (Pinacoteca Mandredini).
St Ambrose(?); St Nicholas of Bari. Wood, 56 x 38.
The three golden balls on St Nicholas's book refer to the story of the saint's providing dowries for three impoverished girls. The other bishop saint has no obvious identifying attribute, but he resembles depictions of St Ambrose in other works by the Vivarini. The two panels, now cut roughly into ovals, would originally have been rectangular. They were formerly in the sacristy of the Salute. They probably came from a polyptych produced in the 1440s by the partnership of Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d'Alemagna. Other panels with a claim to have come from the same altarpiece include the Dead Christ at Bologna and the Louis of Toulouse in the Louvre.
Venice. San Francesco della Vigna.
The centre panel (175 x 75) shows St Bernardino of Siena holding his monogram of the Holy Name of Jesus in one hand and the Bible in the other. The side panels (162 x 53) depict St Jerome, holding his Vulgate Bible and a model of the church, and St Louis of Toulouse, his cope lavishly decorated with fleurs-de-lis and images of saints. The altarpiece is not in its original frame and may not be complete. Probably a late work of Antonio (around 1460), perhaps painted with the assistance of Bartolomeo.
Venice. San Giobbe.
Triptych. Wood (centre panel 127 x 75; side panels 109 x 32).
The Annunciation (with God the Father appearing above to release the dove of the Holy Spirit) is depicted between St Anthony of Padua (with lily and book) and the warrior Archangel Michael (who weighs souls and tramples the Devil underfoot). The triptych has sometimes been classed as a work of collaboration betweeen Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d'Alemagna, sometimes as an early work of collaboration between Antonio and Bartolomeo Vivarini, and sometimes as a work of Antonio alone. It is situated over the altar of the Cappella da Mula at the end of the sacristy. Restored in 1991.
Venice. San Pantaleone.
Coronation of the Virgin. Wood, 230 x 180.
This large altarpiece is densely packed with figures and detail. The vault of Heaven is conceived as the semicircular apse of a huge church. High on a fantastic Gothic throne, Christ crowns the Virgin; the dove of the Holy Spirit hovers between them and God the Father blesses them from above. Between the columns of the throne, naked children (the Holy Innocents?) bear instruments of Christ’s Passion. The Four Evangelists are seated at the base of the throne: John (with his eagle), Mark (with his lion), Matthew (with a child angel) and Luke (with his bull and a framed portrait of the Virgin). At the sides are five ranks of seated saints and prophets with their symbols and, towards the arched top, three rows of exultant angels. Signed by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna and dated 1444 on the scroll, centre bottom. The picture was commissioned not for its current location but for a chapel, built in the early 1440s by the parish priest Francesco Gritti, dedicated to All Saints (Ognissanti). The Ognissanti Chapel was destroyed in the late seventeenth century to make way for a new high altar, and the picture was moved to the Cappella del Sacra Chiodo (left of the chancel), where it remains today. Cleaned and restored in 1996, and exceptionally well preserved for a picture of its size and age. The frame, carved by Cristoforo Ferrara, was probably lost during the seventeenth-century reconstruction of the church.
According to Ridolfi (1648), the Vivarini workshop also painted a set of organ doors for the church, but no trace of these has been discovered.
Venice. San Zaccaria. Cappella di San Tarasio.
The chapel, reached through the sacristy, was built on the site of the chancel of the earlier, twelfth-century church. The polyptychs against the side walls were both painted in 1443 by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna, who were also responsible for all but the three central panels of the main altarpiece. The elaborate, fretted, crocketed and pinnacled frames were carved by Lodovico da Forlì, who signed his name on them.
Left wall: Polyptych of Santa Sabina. Wood, 347 x 185.
The relics of St Sabina are buried in the stone sarcophagus that supports the altarpiece. She is shown in the centre panel, draped in a golden mantle, holding a martyr’s palm and crowned by angels. On the left, St Jerome holds a model of the church. The gorgeously dressed youth on the right is the very obscure St Lizerio (a Spanish soldier, beaten to death with hammers, whose body is said to have been brought to San Zaccaria). Behind the figures is a continuous hedge of flowers. In the upper tier are half-length figures of St Margaret, emerging from a dragon’s mouth, and St Catherine (or Agatha). In the centre is an angel with a scroll. Signed by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna and dated October 1443. As stated in the large roundel, the altarpiece was commissioned by Margherita Donato, a camerlenga (chamberlain) of the convent. It cost 83 ducats. The brilliant colours and copious use of gold on the damasked costumes make it one of the most sumptuous of the Vivarini polyptychs.
Right wall: Polyptych of Corpus Christi. Wood, 339 x 183.
In the centre is a gilded carved wooden group of the Virgin swooning into the arms of the Three Maries and St John. Above is another wood carving, representing the Resurrection. The painted panels at the sides represent Pope Gaius and St Pancras (left) and St Nereus and St Achilles (right). (The relics of the last three saints are buried in the stone sarcophagus.) Signed by Antonio Vivarini and dated October 1443. As stated in the roundel, the altarpiece was commissioned by another camerlenga, Agnesina Giustinian. It cost 106 ducats.
Main altar: Polyptych of the Virgin. Wood, 320 x 600.
The polyptych now incorporates, in the centre, three earlier panels representing the Virgin and Child, St Blaise and St Martin. These are signed and dated 1385 by Stefano di Sant’Agnese and were inserted into the altarpiece in 1839 in the place of the original cupboard for relics. The standing saints on the far left and right (St Mark and St Isabella) and the predella were painted by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna. The back of the altarpiece (restored in 2010) is painted with fourteen figures of saints, with God the Father enthroned in the centre and the Dead Christ above. As inscribed on the frame, the altarpiece was commissioned by the Abbess Elena Foscari (whose name saint is represented by the wooden statue on the far right) and the Prioress Marina Donato (whose name saint is represented by the statue on the far left). It cost 180 ducats.
Vienna. Kunsthistorisches Museum.
‘St Jerome Altarpiece’. Wood.
The centre panel (155 x 63) shows St Jerome standing in cardinal’s robes, holding the Vulgate Bible in one hand and a model of the church in the other. The side panels (each 136 x 47) represent St Mark and St Ambrose. In the upper tier are half-lengths of the Madonna and Child (80 x 55) between John the Baptist and Anthony of Padua (each 59 x 47). The altarpiece comes from the Venetian church of Santo Stefano, where it stood in a chapel dedicated to St Jerome on the right side of the nave, near the door leading to the campo. The chapel was under the patronage of the patrician Da Molino family. According to Francesco Sansovino (1581), the altarpiece was signed by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna and dated 1441. It is the earliest datable work from the Vivarini workshop. (The signatures and date were presumably inscribed on the original frame, which is lost.) In 1733, when the chapel was rededicated, the altarpiece was moved to the refectory. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, it was acquired by Tommaso degli Obizzi for his collection at Catajo, whence it passed into the Este collection in Austria. During the First World War, it was transferred to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, where it was rediscovered and published in 1922 (by Leo Planiscig in Bollettino d’Arte).
St John the Baptist; St Clare. Wood, each 68 x 40.
These two panels of half-length saints belonged to the polyptych painted by Antonio and Bartolomeo Vivarini in 1451 for the high altar of the church of San Francesco in Padua. They were on the left of the upper tier. Three other panels from the polyptych are in the National Gallery at Prague. Transferred to the Kunsthistorisches Museum from the Este collection in 1916.
Washington. National Gallery.
St Apollonia destroys a Pagan Idol. Wood, 59 x 35.
One of several small panels showing scenes from the life of the early Christian martyr; there are two others at Bergamo and one at Bassano. Variously attributed to Antonio Vivarini and/or Giovanni d’Alemagna. (The gallery itself now catalogues the panel under Giovanni d’Alemagna alone.) Acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1927 from Contini Bonacossi. Previously thought to represent St Catherine of Alexandria refusing to worship a pagan idol.
Worcester (Massachusetts). Art Museum.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 56 x 34.
It is uncertain whether this very worn panel was a picture in its own right or part of a triptych or polyptych. One suggestion (made by Federico Zeri in Antichità Vita (1975)) is that it was the central panel of the upper tier of a polyptych painted by Antonio and Bartolomeo Vivarini in 1451 for the high altar of the church of San Francesco at Padua. Bought by the Worcester Art Museum in 1921 from the Carroll Gallery, London. It was acquired with an attribution to Masolino, but was recognised almost immediately as a work of Antonio Vivarini.