Bartolomeo VivariniBartolomeo was the younger brother of Antonio. The date of 1431/32 often given for his birth is unreliable (being based on a suspect inscription on a dubiously attributed painting). He was active as a painter by 1450, when he signed jointly with Antonio the large ‘Certosa Polyptych’ (Bologna Pinacoteca). The brothers collaborated until at least 1458. (Their joint works are entered here under Antonio.) The earliest picture signed by Bartolomeo alone is the Saint John of Capistrano of 1459 in the Louvre. There are many other dated works up until 1491.
While Bartolomeo presumably received his earliest training under Antonio at Murano, the style of his independent works shows almost from the start the sculptural forms, sharp contours and hard surfaces that are typical of the Paduan school of Francesco Squarcione. It is not known whether he had part of his training in Padua (where he stayed with Antonio in 1447-50) or was simply influenced by the works of Squarcione’s pupils and followers (which included Andrea Mantegna, Carlo Crivelli and Marco Zoppo). His style, once formed, changed little, though some influence from Giovanni Bellini (either directly or through his nephew Alvise) is discernable in his later works.
While continuing to sign his paintings 'de Muriano', Bartolomeo appears to have spent much of his working life in metropolitan Venice. In January 1463, he is documented as a married man living in the parish of Santa Maria Formosa (the district between the Rialto and St Mark's Square). He enjoyed considerable popularity in the 1460s and 1470s, when he painted a number of major altarpieces for Venetian churches. But his style then became out-dated and he relied increasingly on provincial commissions. His later altarpieces were painted for churches as far afield as Apulia, Calabria, the Dalmatian coast and the mountain valleys north of Bergamo. The quality of the works produced for export is often noticeably inferior to those intended for Venetian patrons.
As well as altarpieces, Bartolomeo painted many small devotional Madonnas, which are often very like each other. His only known large narrative paintings (commissioned in 1467 for the Scuola Grande di San Marco) were destroyed by fire as early as 1485. He is not known to have painted portraits or mythologies.
Allentown (Pennsylvania). Art Museum.
Saint Bartholomew. Wood, 90 x 43.
He holds a book and the knife with which he was flayed. There is a similar depiction of the apostle in the Saint James Polyptych, dated 1490, in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1934 from Contini Bonacossi; at Allentown since 1960.
Almenno San Bartolomeo (9 km northwest of Bergamo). San Bartolomeo.
Virgin and Child Enthroned ('Madonna del Cardellino'). Wood, 133 x 78.
The Child, seated on a cushion on the Virgin's lap, clutches a fluttering goldfinch – a familiar symbol of his future Passion. Signed and dated 1485 on the cartellino attached to the step of the marble throne. The centre panel of a triptych. One side panel represented St Bartholomew and (according to an unpublished suggestion of Federico Zeri) is possibly the picture now at Allentown, Pennsylvania. The other side panel represented St John the Baptist and is untraced. One of several gold-ground altarpieces painted by Bartolomeo Vivarini late in his career (1485-91) for churches in the Bergamo area.
Saint Cosmas; Saint Damian. Wood, each 49/44 x 33/30.
The martyr twins are portrayed as contemporary doctors. One holds a wooden stick and bowl. The other holds what looks like a book but might be a box containing medications. The two panels are presumably fragments of a dismembered polyptych. From the collection of the Amsterdam surgeon Otto Lanz (which was sold by his widow to Adolf Hitler in 1941 but returned to the Netherlands after the War).
Bari. Pinacoteca Provinciale.
Triptych. Wood, each panel 116/114x 50/51.
The centre panel shows St Francis of Assisi standing alone, both hands raised to display the stigmata on his palms. The left panel depicts Michael the Archangel (weighing souls and spearing the devil beneath his feet) and St Anthony of Padua (holding a lily). The right panel shows St Bernardino of Siena (displaying his IHS monogram) and St Peter (with the keys of Heaven dangling from the fingers of his left hand). Signed and dated 1483 at the bottom of the centre panel. From the Franciscan monastery of Santa Maria Vetere at Andria (near Bari). The frame is lost, and it is uncertain whether the altarpiece is complete. (Zeri (1975) thought it included a panel of the Man of Sorrows formerly with the dealer Baron Michele Lazzaroni in Rome and later on the art market in Bergamo.) The three panels entered the museum in 1891.
Four Panels of Saints. Wood, each 50/49 x 36/34.
The half-length saints are Nicholas of Bari (holding three golden balls on a book), Catherine of Alexandria (with broken wheel and martyr’s palm), Clare (in the habit of her order of nuns) and Bernardino of Siena (holding a book and his monogram with the Holy Name of Jesus). The panel of St Bernardino is especially damaged. The four panels probably belonged to the upper tier of a large polyptych. They came from the Franciscan monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie at Altamura (near Bari). They were deposited in 1866 with the municipal authorities in Altamura , later restored and moved to the Bari gallery.
Bari. Basilica of San Nicola (left transept).
Madonna and Child with Four Saints. Wood, 131 x 121.
The figures are placed in a castellated courtyard with the evening sky behind. On the left, the pilgrim saint is identified as either James the Great or Roch and the bishop saint as either Louis of Toulouse (name saint of Canon Alvise Cancho, who commissioned the altarpiece) or Martin (to whom the chapel for which the altarpiece was painted was dedicated). The saints on the right are Nicholas of Bari (titular saint of the basilica) and probably Mark (patron saint of Venice). In the lunette (49 x 139): the Dead Christ between two saints (Augustine and Francis). Signed and dated 1476. The inscription (from 1737) on the base of the frame gives the patron's name ('Ludovicus Caucho'). The severely classical frame was modified in the eighteenth century and may originally have been more elaborately decorated.
Bassano. Museo Civico.
The Redeemer. Wood, 115 x 58.
Christ enthroned raises his right hand in blessing and holds a globe in his left hand. A signature (now very fragmentary) is on the step of the throne. Presumably the centre panel of a triptych or polyptych, and conceivably identical with the Redeemer Enthroned, the centre of a triptych, seen by Boschini (1674) in the church of San Geminiano at Venice. Bequeathed to the museum in 1866 with the collection of Jacopo Merlo.
Bergamo. Accademia Carrara.
‘Scanzo Polyptych’. Wood.
The centre panel (136 x 67) represents the Madonna enthroned as Queen of Heaven, adoring the Christ Child asleep across her lap. The side panels (each 136/7 x 48) show St Peter and Michael the Archangel. St Peter holds the keys to Heaven. The Archangel MIchael, represented as an armoured knight with multi-coloured wings, weighs souls in his scales and tramples the Devil (a fantastic hybrid with tusks and horns, a human body and a dragon's wings and tail) beneath his feet. The lunette (78 x 131) represents the Trinity – the enthroned God the Father supporting Christ crucified on the cross with the dove of the Holy Spirit hovering above – between two adoring angels on clouds. Signed and dated 1488 at the base of the centre panel. The polyptych came from the parish church in the village of Scanzo, northwest of Bergamo, where it is recorded in 1670. The panels are unframed. The centre panel has been trimmed at the sides and the ends of the lunette have been sawn off.
‘St Martin Triptych’. Wood, 118 x 132.
The centre panel shows St Martin on horseback dividing his cloak with a beggar. The wings depict John the Baptist (pointing to a tiny lamb he holds up in his left hand) and St Sebastian (bound to a tree and pierced by arrows). Bartolomeo Vivarini’s last signed and dated work (1491). From the parish church of San Martino at Torre Boldone (just 3 km northeast of Bergamo). The Scanzo Polyptych and St Martin Triptych were both included in Conte Giacomo Carrara’s original bequest to the City of Bergamo in 1796.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 55 x 40.
The naked Child is seated on a cushion on the parapet. A landscape is glimpsed through windows on either side. Signed and dated 1486. The inclusion of the words 'Factum Venetiss' ('made in Venice') suggests that the picture was made for the provincial market. Acquired in 1843 by Conte Guglielmo Lochis from Maddalena Sodani of Milan for 675 lire, a price that included a work (the 'Lochis Madonna') by Giovanni Bellini. Bequeathed to the Accademia Carrara in 1859.
Angels Adoring. Two panels, each 23 x 16.
These two small fragments were included in Conte Giacomo Carrara's 1796 bequest. The possibility has been considered that they had been cut from the ends of the lunette of the Scanzo Polyptych, but they appear to have come from some other altarpiece.
Saint Mark. Wood, 53 x 35.
Cut down: the saint was probably originally full-length. Possibly the Saint Mark that was a side panel of the polyptych painted by Bartolomeo Vivarini in 1473 for the Venetian church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Acquired by the Prussian State in 1821 with the huge collection of early Italian and Netherlandish paintings amassed by the English merchant Edward Solly during the Napoleonic Wars.
Saint George and the Dragon. Wood, 129 x 66.
On the right, the Princess Cleodolinda prays for deliverance from the dragon. Signed and dated 1485. Probably the central panel of a polyptych made in Bartolomeo's workshop for a provincial church. From the Solly collection.
Boston. Museum of Fine Arts.
'Arbe Polyptych'. Wood, 236 x 198.
One of the few examples to be found outside Italy of a Renaissance polyptych still complete in its original frame. In the centre is a carved and gilded wooden group of the Pietà. At the sides are full-length figures of Saints Benedict, Andrew, George and Scholastica. In the upper tier, there is a scene of the Ascension in the centre, with half-lengths of Saints Jerome, Gregory, Mary Magdalene and Christopher at the sides. Signed and dated 1485 on the base of the sculpture. The ornate Gothic frame – with ogee arches, gables and crockets – is boldly carved. From the Benedictine monastery of Sant’Andrea on the island of Arbe off the Dalmatian coast (now Rab in Croatia). Acquired in 1876 by Quincy Adams Shaw of Boston, who donated it to the museum in 1901. Unsurprisingly for a large and complex late altarpiece manufactured for export to a provincial customer, the execution appears to be of largely workshop execution.
Saint Mary Magdalene. Wood, 57 x 36.
The saint, half-length, holds a book and her pot of ointment. Probably a panel from the right side of the upper tier of a large polyptych. Acquired by 1888 by Quincy Adams Shaw, whose descendant Louis Agassiz Shaw donated it to the museum in 1991.
Cambridge (Mass.). Fogg Art Museum.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 81 x 56.
As in a number of Bartolomeo Vivarini's Madonnas, the Child is depicted sucking his fingers. A similar picture in the museum at Sassari is signed and dated 1473. Bought in Venice in 1876 by Charles Fairfax Murray for John Ruskin, who sold it soon afterwards to Sir Frederic Leighton. It was repurchased by Murray in 1896 at the Leighton sale and given to the Fogg Museum in 1904 by its director Edward W. Forbes. Poorly preserved.
Capua. Museo Campano.
'Ecce Homo'. Wood, 80 x 52.
Panels of this subject and cusped shape typically occupied the centre of the upper tier of a polyptych. (At least a dozen examples produced by the Vivarini workshops are known.) Probably quite early. It is similar in style to the Coronation of the Virgin at New Orleans and conceivably came from the same altarpiece.
Saint Louis of Toulouse. Wood, 68 x 36.
The youthful saint is identified by the Angevin fleurs-de-lis embroidered on his cope, which he wears over the grey habit of a Franciscan friar. Presumably a fragment from the right side of a polyptych. The panel appears to have been cut down at the bottom and the figure may originally have been full-length. Probably fairly early (mid-1460s). Once in the Santori collection at Ferrara, it was bought by the Uffizi in 1906 for 5,000 lire from Donna Laura Minghetti, widow of the statesman Marco Minghetti.
Greenville (South Carolina). Bob Jones Museum.
Man of Sorrows. Wood, 46 x 77.
The dead Christ, crowned with thorns and displaying the wounds in his hands, stands in the tomb between two grieving angels hovering on clouds. Probably a fragment from the upper tier of an altarpiece. It has been conjectured (by Federico Zeri in an unpublished note) that it went above the Madonna Enthroned in the church of San Bartolomeo at Almenno (near Bergamo). The panel was once in the collection of Count Albani at Bergamo, and later the Milan collections of the textile manufacturer Cristoforo Crespi and the Argentine shipping magnate Achillito Chiesa. It was exported for sale in New York and passed into the collection of investment banker Robert Lehman. Bequeathed to the Bob Jones Museum in 1957.
Honolulu. Museum of Arts.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 60 x 40.
The theme of the Virgin adoring the sleeping Christ Child was very popular with Bartolomeo Vivarini. This small devotional panel may date from the mid-1470s. Previously in private German collections, it was donated to the museum in 1931 by Mrs Charles Montague Cooke, widow of a prominent Hawaiian businessman. A similar (but badly abraded) Madonna once belonged to the distinguished nineteenth-century English theologian and scholar Henry Alford. It was sold at Sotheby's, New York, in January 2013.
London. National Gallery.
Virgin and Child with St Paul and St Jerome(?). Wood, 95 x 64.
The two saints are squeezed rather awkwardly into the background and seem unlikely to have been part of the original composition. (Perhaps the panel was a Madonna painted for stock and modified at the request of the purchaser.) Bartolomeo’s (retouched) signature is on the cartellino attached to the green damask cloth draped over the parapet. Probably a comparatively early work (1460s). Once in the Contarini collection at Venice, it was acquired by the National Gallery in 1855 from Conte Bernardino Cornian degli Algarotti for £97. The gold background and haloes are modern.
London. Westminster Abbey.
‘Madonna of the Cherries’. Wood, 83 x 69.
The Virgin is shown in a niche, with a festoon of fruit above and a landscape behind. The Child (naked and with almost adult-like proportions) stands on a parapet, holding cherries. Attributed to Bartolomeo Vivarini as a very early and very ‘Paduan’ work. The Virgin is similar in type to that in the signed Madonna with SS. Paul and Jerome in the National Gallery, London. Presented to the Abbey by Lord Lee of Fareham in 1935 to adorn the new altar of the Lady Chapel. All that is known of the earlier history of the painting is that it was sold in Bath in 1894.
Los Angeles. Getty Museum.
‘St James Polyptych’. Wood, 280 x 215.
The central figure, carrying a staff and scallop shell, has sometimes been identified as Christ the Pilgrim, but is probably Saint James the Great. He is shown between Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist (left) and Bartholomew and Peter (right). In the centre of the upper tier, the Virgin supports the Child, who stands on a parapet with his hand raised in blessing. At the sides are half-length figures of Saints Catherine of Alexandria (with broken wheel), Ursula (with banners), Apollonia (holding pincers with a tooth) and Lucy (with oil lamp). The polyptych appears to be complete, but the frame is of the nineteenth century. Signed and dated 1490 at the base of the centre panel. It is one of Bartolomeo’s last known works. It was painted for the little parish church of San Giacomo in the hilltop village of Vallalta, near Alzano and some 25 kilometres northeast of Bergamo. It was sold in 1702 and installed in another church in the area. In 1857 it is recorded in the possession of a priest at Alzano. Acquired by the Getty Museum in 1971 from the Contini Bonacossi collection in Florence.
Lussingrande (Veli Lošinj in Croatia). San Antonio Eremita.
Madonna and Six Saints. Wood, 190 x 155.
The enthroned Virgin, adoring the Child asleep in her lap, is crowned by two child angels in the presence of God the Father, looming above in the apex of the arched panel. St Lucy (holding a dish with her eyes) and St Catherine of Alexandria (with a martyr’s palm and her broken wheel) kneel before the throne. Saints Jerome (holding a model of the church), Agnes (with lamb), Augusta and Augustine stand at the sides. Signed and dated 1475, bottom centre. Painted for the Certosa at Padua. After the convent was closed in 1774, the picture passed into the hands of Maffeo Pinelli of Venice. It was then sold to Gaspare Craglietto, a merchant from Lussingrande, who bequeathed it to his native town in 1838. The picture was hung on a damp wall of the church and had to be restored in 1905. It incurred still more serious damage during the Second World War, when it was hidden in the damp crypt of the church. The panel shrunk when it was dried out, causing the paint surface to wrinkle. There were further restorations in 1949, 1968 and 1999-2001. After the last treatment, the picture was placed in storage at the Croatian Restoration Institute.
'St Christopher Polyptych'. Wood.
In the centre panel (107 x 55), the giant St Christopher, using a palm tree as a staff, carries the Christ Child on his shoulders across the river. The side panels (107 x 47) depict the plague saints Sebastian (bound to a column and pierced with arrows) and Roch (displaying the ulcer on his thigh). The upper tier shows half-lengths of the Virgin and Child (58 x 55) between two saints (each 58 x 46). The bishop monk on the left, holding a crosier, is usually identified as St Bernard. On the right, St Bernardino of Siena displays his monogram of the Holy Name of Jesus. Signed and dated 1486 on a cartellino by St Roch’s feet. From the church of San Giuliano at Albino, northeast of Bergamo. It was one of many altarpieces produced in Bartolomeo Vivarini's Venetian workshop in the 1480s for export to the Bergamo region, and the execution may have been delegated largely to assistants. Bequeathed to the Ambrosiana in 1872 with the collection of Lodovico Melzi d’Eril.
Modugno (near Bari). Church of Maria Santissima Annunziata.
Annunciation. Wood, 106 x 68.
Signed and dated 1472 on the cartellino. The centre panel of an altarpiece. The execution is usually ascribed partly or wholly to Bartolomeo’s workshop. From 1929 to 2002 the picture was in the gallery at Bari. It is now displayed in a glass case near the altar.
Morano Calabro (Calabria). Santa Maria Maddalena (Sacristy).
The Virgin and Child (147 x 50) are enthroned in the centre between full-length figures (each 135 x 40) of St Francis and St Bernardino of Siena. Two more Franciscan saints (57 x 40), Anthony of Padua and Louis of Toulouse, flank the Pietà (53 x 51) in the upper tier. At the sides are six half-length saints (50 x 40): John the Baptist, Nicholas of Bari and Catherine of Alexandria on the left; Jerome, Augustine and Clare on the right. The predella shows Christ and the twelve apostles. Signed and dated 1477. Painted for the high altar of the Franciscan church of San Bernardino. The structure of the polyptych is most unusual for a Venetian altarpiece and was presumably dictated by the Calabrian client. (The unknown patron might have been either Geronimo Sanseverino, feudal lord of Morano, or Bishop Rutilio Zenone, who consecrated the church.) Much of the execution appears to be the work of assistants. There were several thefts in the early 1970s (the pilaster panels were taken in 1970, the six main panels in 1971 and the predella in 1972), but the panels were all recovered. After restoration in 1995, the polyptych was transferred for safekeeping to the sacristy of Santa Maria Maddalena.
Moscow. Pushkin Museum.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 75 x 53.
The Child, supported on the Virgin's right arm and resting his feet on the parapet, grasps the edge of her mantle. A seascape is glimpsed through the window on the left. Signed and dated 1481. One of three Madonnas by Bartolomeo Viviarini dated that year; the others are in the De Young Museum at San Francisco and the Galleria Sabauda in Turin. Acquired in Venice towards the end of the nineteenth century by D. A. Khomyakov, who bequeathed it in 1901 to the Romjancev Museum. Transferred to the Pushkin Museum in 1924.
*Virgin and Child with Saints. Wood, 118 x 120.
The Madonna, draped in a mantle of gold brocade and seated on a marble Renaissance throne, under an arch of fruit supported on the heads of angels, adores the Child sleeping across her lap. Saints Augustine and Roch stand on the left, Louis of Toulouse and Nicholas of Bari on the right. In the sky, half figures of Saints Catherine, Dominic, Peter Martyr and Mary Magdalene appear on clouds. Signed and dated 1465 on the step of the throne. This fine altarpiece is claimed to be the earliest known Venetian example of a unified pala and is one of Bartolommeo’s earliest independent major works. It came from Bari. It is said to have been in the convent of the Osservanti there (which was closed by the French in 1813); but the inclusion of two major Dominican saints suggests that it was painted for the Dominican church. Acquired by the Capodimonte in 1821.
New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery.
Madonna Enthroned. Wood, 116 x 65.
Pairs of tiny angels, playing rebecs and lutes, are perched on a ledge at the top of the throne and on the sides of the seat. The panel appears to have been cut down somewhat, perhaps removing an inscription with the signature and date. Published as a work of Bartolomeo Vivarini in 1908 (by Mason Perkins in Rassegna d'Arte). Recent critical opinion has been divided over whether it is an early work of Bartolomeo or a late work of Antonio Vivarini. It has been usually dated, in either case, to the first half of the 1460s. It was probably the central panel of a triptych or polyptych. Sold in 1907 with the estate of Robert Jenkins Nevin, pastor of the American Episcopalian Church in Rome, and later in the vast collection of Dan Fellows Platt of New Jersey. Bequeathed to the Yale Gallery in 1959 with the Rabinowitz collection.
New Orleans. Museum of Art.
Coronation of the Virgin. Wood, 89 x 60.
The centre panel of a triptych or polyptych. The composition is almost identical to that of the main panel of an altarpiece, attributed to the Vivarini brothers and/or their workshop, at Osimo. The New Orleans Coronation has been attributed to Bartolomeo as an early work, but substantial workshop assistance is likely. Once in the famous Costabili collection at Ferrara, the panel was acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1936 from Contini Bonacossi and assigned to the New Orleans museum in 1952.
New York. Metropolitan Museum.
Death of the Virgin. Wood, 190 x 150.
The Virgin, on her deathbed, is surrounded by the eleven apostles. Christ, in a mandorla supported by child angels, carries her soul, represented by a little figure in white, up to heaven. The deacon saints Lawrence (with his gridiron) and Stephen (with a stone embedded in his head) stand at the sides. Signed and dated 148 on a cartellino, bottom centre. Painted for an altar, dedicated to St Lawrence, in the Certosa near Padua. It was commissioned on 15 March 1484, the fee was fifty gold ducats and the altarpiece was to be completed in eight months. The general design of the picture and the figures of the Virgin on her bier and Christ in the mandorla recall those in the large mosaic of the Death of the Virgin in the Mascoli Chapel of St Mark's Basilica. (Berenson (1957) even attributed the design of the mosaic to Bartolomeo Vivarini, but most opinion now gives it to Castagno.) The execution of the picture is usually ascribed at least partly to Bartolomeo’s workshop.
After the Certosa was closed in 1774, the picture was acquired by John Strange, the British Resident in Venice, and taken to London. It changed ownership many times over the next century and a half, being sold in 1781 (as by ‘De Muriano’), 1824 (as Giotto for 18 guineas), 1859 (as Giotto for £63), 1861 (still as Giotto), 1882 (as Bartolomeo Vivarini for 210 guineas) and 1911 (for £630 to the painter and dealer Charles Fairfax Murray). Acquired in 1925 by the New York investment banker Philip Lehman, whose son Robert gave it to the Metropolitan Museum in 1950. The frame, which was sub-contracted by Bartolomeo to an unknown wood carver, is lost. It was surmounted by a carved figure of St Michael.
‘Madonna of Humility’. Wood.
The centre panel (58 x 46) represents the Virgin both as the Madonna of Humility, seated in a meadow, and as Queen of Heaven, robed in gold brocade and crowned by angels. The Child in her lap blesses the donor, a Dominican nun kneeling in prayer. The four smaller panels (24 wide) at the sides depict the Annunciation above and the Nativity and Pietà below. This lavish devotional work probably dates from the mid-1460s. It was acquired by Philip Lehman in 1916 (through Langton Douglas) from the Earl of Wemyss, Longniddry, Scotland. Bequeathed to the museum by Robert Lehman in 1975. It is generally well preserved, though the Virgin’s mantle has been restored and the frame is modern.
A Saint Reading. Wood, 47 x 36.
Probably St Mark. The panel appears to have been cut down on all sides, and the figure may originally have been full-length. Either this panel or a similar one (also cut down) at Berlin might be the Saint Mark that was a side panel of the polyptych painted by Bartolomeo Vivarini in 1473 for the church of Giovanni e Paolo at Venice. Alternatively, either panel might be the Saint Mark mentioned by Boschini (1674) as the side panel of a triptych in the church of San Geminiano. Once in the collection of M. J. Seligman of London, it was acquired in the late 1920s by Arthur Lehman of New York, whose widow Adele bequeathed it to the museum in 1965.
Madonna and Child. Canvas mounted on panel (transferred), 83 x 65.
Signed and dated 1472 on the cartellino, bottom right. The picture, a fine composition, was badly damaged by the transfer to canvas. (The Virgin’s face is largely modern restoration.) Once in a private collection in Paris, it was bought for $1,600 in 1897 by the lawyer and financier Theodore M. Davis, who bequeathed his large collection of antiquities and art works to the museum in 1915. The painting was (inexplicably) sold by the museum in 2013 (31 January at Sotheby's, New York). The sale price was a comparatively modest $80,500.
Pag (Croatia). Museum of the Benedictine Monastery of St Margaret.
Virgin and Child. Wood, 55 x 45.
The picture is very damaged: the entire surface is abraded and there is a large jagged area of paint loss at the bottom of the panel. The Child appears to be holding a pomegranate. The Virgin's praying hands are nearly effaced. The picture has been recently attributed (by Beatrice Tanzi in the October 2023 issue of the Burlington Magazine) to Giovanni Bellini as a very early work (c. 1460). There are, however, marked similarities with several of Bartolomeo Vivarini's Madonnas (including those, both dated 1481, at San Francisco and the Pushkin Museum, Moscow).
Saint John of Capistrano. Wood, 197 x 98.
John of Capistrano (1386-1456) was a Franciscan preacher and inquisitor, who studied under St Bernardino of Siena. As inquisitor-general to Vienna, he preached crusades against the Jews and Hussite heretics. Following the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, he preached a crusade against the Turks and led his own contingent into battle to help raise the Siege of Belgrade in 1456. This large vertical panel appears to have been an independent work rather than part of a polyptych. It was probably commissioned by Franciscan Observants, possibly as part of a promotional campaign for Capistrano's beatification. It is Bartolomeo’s earliest signed and dated work (1459). Acquired by France in 1861 with the vast Campana collection of early Italian paintings (most of which are now at Avignon).
Virgin and Child ('Madonna del Latte'). Wood, 56 x 38.
Devotional paintings of the 'Madonna del Latte' – the Virgin breastfeeding the Child – had been popular in Tuscany and northern Italy since the fourteenth century, but remained rare in fifteenth-century Venice. This small gold-ground panel is a recent discovery. It was donated to the Louvre in 2011 by Jean-François Costa, the wealthy grandson of the founder of the Fragonard perfumery at Grasse. Very little is known of the previous history of the painting, which was sold in 2006 through an auction house at Neuilly-sur-Seine and acquired by Costa the following year from the Sarti Gallery. Attributed to Bartolomeo Vivarini as a very early work, painted in his brother Antonio's workshop.
Philadelphia. Museum of Art (J. G. Johnson Collection).
Saint James; Saint Francis. Wood, each 97 x 28.
The figures are full-length on a gold ground, St James holding a book and pilgrim's staff and St Francis a cross and book. Two side panels from a triptych or polyptych. Pallucchini (1962) thought they flanked the Coronation of the Virgin at New Orleans, while Zeri (in an unpublished note) connected them with the panels of female saints in the church at Rancia, near Bergamo. Acquired by John G. Johnson early in the twentieth century from the Bernetti collection at Fermo.
Madonna and Child Blessing. Wood, 66 x 48.
The naked Child stands on the parapet and raises his right hand in blessing. The Virgin's green cloth of honour almost fills the background, with just a sliver of landscape visible on either side. Dated around 1480 by Pallucchini (1962) on the strength of a resemblance to the lunette in the church of Santa Eufemia at Venice. In Johnson’s collection by 1913, when it was catalogued by Berenson as a work of Bartolomeo Vivarini’s studio.
Polignano a Mare (Apulia). Santa Maria Assunta (Sacristy).
Polyptych. Centre panel, 106 x 42; four side panels, each 118 x 33.
The Virgin and Child enthroned in the centre; Saints Bernardino of Siena (holding his plaque with the Holy Name of Jesus) and Nicholas of Bari (with his three golden balls resting on a book) on the left;, and Saints Vitus (a fashionably dressed youth with martyr's palm) and John the Baptist (dressed in camel's skin and holding his reed cross) on the right. The five panels belonged to a polyptych, which has lost its frame and smaller panels. Restored in 2006-11, when the incomplete date 149[ ] was discovered next to Bartolomeo Vivarini’s signature at the bottom of the centre panel.
Ranica (Northeast of Bergamo). Parish Church.
Four Female Saints. Wood, each 47 x 36.
The saints are Barbara, Agnes, Catherine of Alexandria and Mary Magdalene. Fragments, cut down into ovals, of a dismembered polyptych, which (according to a manuscript note by Federico Zeri) may also have included the panels of St James and St Francis at Philadelphia.
Rome. Galleria Borghese.
Madonna and Child Enthroned. Wood, 65 x 41.
Possibly the central panel of a small polyptych. Acquired in 1909 for 800 lire from the Congregazione di Carità at Forlì. Restored the following year. While the picture is in the style of Bartolomeo Vivarini, and may have been produced in his workshop, the execution does not seem altogether worthy of him.
Rome. Galleria Colonna.
Madonna and Child Enthroned. Wood, 97 x 37.
Signed and dated 1471. Probably the central panel of a triptych. The words 'FACTUM VENETIIS' in the inscription suggest the picture was intended for a non-Venetian destination.
St Petersburg. Hermitage.
Madonna and Child. Canvas (transferred from panel in 1859), 57 x 47.
Signed and dated 1490 on the parapet. Close in composition to the Virgin and Child in the Saint James Polyptych painted in the same year (Getty Museum, Los Angeles). Damaged by the transfer from panel to canvas (the paint losses are especially serious in the faces of the Virgin and the Child). Acquired in Venice by Count Paul Stroganov in 1857 from the dealer Paul Fabrice. Transferred to the Hermitage in 1922 from the Stroganov Palace at Petrograd.
San Francisco. De Young Museum.
Madonna and Sleeping Child. Wood, 59 x 45.
The sleeping Child motif is very common with Bartolomeo Vivarini and is usually thought to allude to the death of the adult Christ. The Virgin is shown against a bright red cloth of honour, with trees glimpsed through the narrow windows at the sides. Signed and dated 1481 on the cartellino, bottom right.
Sassari (Sardinia). Museo Nazionale.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 82 x 56.
Signed and dated 1473. Similar in type and composition to some of Mantegna’s small Madonnas (eg. the early Butler Madonna in the Metropolitan Museum, New York). Possibly the Madonna of 1473 seen by Ridolfi (1648) in the house of Giovanni Battista Fais, a designer of fountains. Restored in 2022. There is another version (unsigned and in poor condition) in the Fogg Museum at Cambridge (Mass.).
Seattle. Art Museum.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 50 x 42.
As the Virgin and Child are viewed from below, it is likely that the panel occupied the centre of the upper tier of a polyptych. The Virgin is similar in type to the one in Bartolomeo’s altarpiece of 1475 at Lussingrande. Acquired by Kress in 1932 from Contini Bonacossi; at Seattle since 1952. Very well preserved.
Turin. Galleria Sabauda.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 73 x 54.
Signed and dated 1481. Acquired in 1875 from the Gherardi collection. Ruined.
*‘Polyptych of the Madonna’. Wood.
In the centre panel (131 x 49) the Virgin, hands folded in prayer, adores the Child asleep in her lap. The four side panels (107 x 33) show Saints Andrew, John the Baptist, Dominic and Peter. Signed and dated 1464 at the bottom of the centre panel. It is the first surviving major altarpiece by Bartolomeo working independently of Antonio. It was painted for the island monastery of Sant’Andrea del Lido (or della Certosa) at Venice, where it was seen in 1674 by Marco Boschini, who wrongly stated that it was found in the Morosini Chapel. The true patron has been identified recently (by Susan Steer in an article in the November 2002 Burlington Magazine) as Domenico Diedo, a Procurator of St Mark’s. The four saints are the name saints of Domenico himself, his father Giovanni, his nephew Andrea and Andrea’s eldest son Piero. The altarpiece cost twenty-four ducats and took ten months to execute. Taken to the Accademia after the monastery was demolished in 1810. The elaborate Gothic frame was probably destroyed at this time. It is known from a late eighteenth-century engraving to have been crowned by a carved Crucifixion and four half-figures of Old Testament Prophets.
*‘Polyptych of St Ambrose’. Wood.
In the centre panel (125 x 47), the enthroned St Ambrose blesses members of the Scuola dei Tagliapietra (confraternity of stonecutters), who commissioned the altarpiece. Ambrose was the name-saint of Ambrogio Vivani, who is identified in the inscription as the chairman of the Scuola. Ambrose was also patron saint of Milan, and many stonemasons working in Venice were Lombards. The four side panels (108 x 36) show St Louis IX of France (patron saint of French masons), St Peter (name-saint of the Scuola's secretary Pietro Muntin), St Paul and St Sebastian (or Theodore). Signed and dated 1477 at the bottom of the panel of St Peter, which also names the woodcarver, Giacomo da Faenza, who made the frame (now lost). The polyptych is first recorded only in the early nineteenth century, when it was discovered in the meeting room of the Scuola dei Tagliapietra, next to the ancient church of Sant’ Aponal. The Scuola did not move to Sant' Aponal until 1515, and the polyptych may have been produced for a chapel in the masons' former host church of San Giovanni Evangelista. The panels from the dismembered polyptych were taken to Vienna in 1838 and returned to Venice in 1919 as part of the reparations after the First World War.
St Mary Magdalene; St Barbara. Wood, each 132 x 48.
Mary Magdalene holds the pot of ointment with which she anointed Christ’s feet and St Barbara holds a model of the tower in which she was imprisoned. Signed and dated 1490 on the cartellino at the bottom of the St Barbara panel. From the church of San Geminiano at Venice. The church, which faced St Mark’s Basilica, was demolished in 1807 to make way for the staircase of Napoleon’s Palazzo Reale. The purpose of the panels is unrecorded; perhaps they flanked a polychrome wooden sculpture. Although they are very late works, the quality of execution is high, reflecting the prestige of the commission.
‘Conversano Polyptych’. Wood.
The Nativity (154 x 46) is similar in composition to that in the polyptych painted by Antonio Vivarini in 1447 for the church of San Francesco in Padua and now at Prague. Above: the Dead Christ between two angels (46 x 45). There are four standing saints on either side (each 138 x 23). Those on the left are Francis, Andrew, John the Baptist and Peter; those on the right are Paul, Jerome, Dominic and Theodore. The predella (25 x 270) contains half-length figures of Christ and the twelve apostles. Signed, centre bottom, on the frame. As stated in the inscription below the centre panel, the polyptych was painted in 1475 for the Cathedral at Conversano, which is an ancient town in Apulia (30 km southeast of Bari). The quality of Vivarini altarpieces tends to vary with the importance of the commission, and in this case the work seems to have been delegated largely to a (second-rate) assistant. Transferred to the Accademia in 1883.
Venice. Museo Correr.
Madonna and Child. Wood, 71 x 49.
The Virgin, standing behind a parapet, supports the Child on her right arm. Plain gold background. Signed on the cartellino on the parapet. Probably fairly early (1460s). From Teodoro Correr’s original 1830 bequest to the City of Venice.
Madonna and Child Enthroned. Wood, 77 x 53.
Much damaged and restored (the background and throne repainted). The panel has been cut down and the Virgin was probably originally full-length. Possibly the 'Blessed Virgin with the Babe in arms' mentioned by Boschini (1664) as occupying the centre of the second tier of the polyptych painted by Bartolomeo Vivarini in 1473 for the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Bequeathed to the Correr Museum in 1901 by the antiques dealer Vincenzo Favenza.
*Triptych of St Mark. Central panel, 165 x 68; wings 165 x 57.
The altarpiece of the gated Cornaro (or Corner) Chapel, the fourth to the left of the high altar. The chapel was endowed by the enormously wealthy fourteenth-century merchant Ferigo Corner (commemorated by the cenotaph set into the left wall) and the altarpiece was probably commissioned by his grandson Piero Corner. The form of the altarpiece was clearly inspired by Mantegna's famous San Zeno Altarpiece of 1456-59. The centre panel shows St Mark enthroned; small angels with swags perch on the arched back of the early Renaissance throne; two musical angels sit on the step; and two more angels stand at the sides. The pair of saints in the left-hand panel are clearly identifiable as John the Baptist (holding a reed cross and banderole with the legend ECCE AGNU[S DEI]) and Jerome (dressed as a cardinal and holding a model of the church). The right-hand saints have been variously identified. The elderly man reading a book has been taken for St Paul but is probably St John the Evangelist. The bishop saint has been called Nicholas of Bari but is more likely to be Augustine. Signed and dated 1474 at the base of the centre panel. The ornate Gothic frame, with ogive arches and a profusion of crockets, is original. The half-figures carved on the pinnacles represent the Virgin Annunciate and the Old Testament Prophets Jeremiah and Jonah.
*Madonna and Four Saints. Wood, 370 x 290.
The altarpiece of the Bernardo Chapel, the third to the right of the high altar. The Bernardo were a patrician Venetian merchant family, based near the Frari. The centre panel (175 x 75) shows the Virgin and Child enthroned. The Dead Christ is represented, above, between two adoring angels carved on the frame. The wings (each 171 x 68) show pairs of saints discussing the scriptures: Andrew and Nicholas of Bari (left) and Peter and Paul (right). The saints depicted are name-saints of four Bernardo brothers (Andrea, Nicolò, Polo and Piero). Signed at the base of the centre panel; the date, previously supposed to be 1482, has been recently read as 1487. The graceful Renaissance frame has been attributed to Giacomo da Faenza. (The pair of carved angels over the side panels may have been added later.)
Venice (Giudecca). Santa Eufemia.
Saint Roch. Wood, 138 x 59; lunette, 99 x 60.
The saint, dressed as a pilgrim and displaying the bleeding sore on his leg, is blessed by a diminutive angel; a Virgin and Child in the lunette. Originally the centre of a triptych. The side panels, showing St Sebastian and St Louis of Toulouse, probably disappeared during the Napoleonic upheavals of the early nineteenth century. Painted for an altar (first on the right of the nave) under the patronage of a confraternity (scuola piccola) devoted to St Roch. A signature and date (1480) was recorded in 1815. Restored in 1970 and again, more thoroughly, in 2008.
Venice. SS. Giovanni e Paolo.
Three Saints. Wood.
The three remaining parts of a huge polyptych, which contained ten panels in three tiers and probably stood over five metres high. The Saint Augustine (191 x 69) is signed and dated 1473. It was in the centre of the main tier, where it was flanked by panels of Saints Mark and John the Baptist. The slightly smaller panels (each 158 x 56) of Saint Dominic and Saint Lawrence belonged to the second tier, where they flanked a Virgin and Child. The third tier contained four medallions of saints. The polyptych originally stood over the first altar on the left of the church. The altar, dedicated to St Augustine, was founded at the end of the fourteenth century as the funerary chapel of the wealthy patrician Marco Dolfin, and the polyptych may have been commissioned by a later member of the Dolfin family, called Domenico, who died in 1515 and was buried in front of the altar. The polyptych was still complete in 1815 but had been dismembered by 1822. Two of the missing panels may have survived. The Virgin and Child is possibly a panel (now cut down) preserved in the Correr Museum, while the Saint Mark could be one or other of the panels of the saint (both also now cut down) at Berlin and New York.
Bartolomeo Vivarini painted two altarpieces for SS. Giovanni e Paolo. The other – commissioned by Procurator Alvise Storlato for his burial chapel and singled out for praise by Vasari – is completely lost.
Designs for Stained Glass.
The glass in the great window in the right transept was made in Murano from cartoons by several different artists. The lowest tier, showing full-length figures of four warrior saints (Theodore, John, Paul and George) against a continous landscape, is signed by the Venetian painter and engraver Girolamo Mocetto. The designs for the full-length figures of the Four Evangelists are attributed to Bartolomeo Vivarini, as are the designs for the half-length figures of the Doctors of the Church (Ambrose, Gregory, Jerome and Augustine) and those for the four half-length figures of Dominican saints (Vincent Ferrer, Dominic, Peter Martyr and Thomas Aquinas). Some of the other designs (the half-lengths of the Baptist, St Peter and the Virgin in the second tier from the top) are sometimes ascribed to Cima. The glass was restored in 1977-83 and again in 2010.
Venice. San Giovanni in Bragora.
Triptych. Centre panel, 130 x 48; wings, 130 x 45.
The altarpiece of the chapel to the right of the high altar. It shows the Virgin and Child enthroned between a gaunt St John the Baptist (pointing to a miniature lamb he holds in his left hand) and an elderly, white-bearded St Andrew (reading a holy book and holding his cross). There was originally a Pietà above the centre panel. Signed and dated 1478. Restored in 1992.
Venice. Santa Maria Formosa.
*Triptych of the Madonna of Mercy. Wood.
The altarpiece of the first chapel of the south aisle. The centre panel (147 x 71) shows the Madonna of the Misericordia. The wings (each 104 x 50) depict the Meeting of Joachim and Anne and the Birth of the Virgin. Signed and dated 1473 at the bottom of the centre panel. Santa Maria Formosa was Bartolomeo Vivarini's own parish church. The altarpiece was commissioned by the Congregazione de Clero (clerical congregation) for its chapel dedicated to the Conception of the Virgin. The figures huddled under the Virgin’s cloak are thought to include, on the left, the archpriest Vettor Rosati and other priests of the congregation and, on the right, a group of parishioners who had donated towards the altarpiece. Although the panels remain over the altar for which they were painted, the original wooden Gothic frame was replaced in 1666 and the panels are now contained in a stone structure.
Venice. Santo Stefano (Sacristy).
St Nicholas of Bari; St Lawrence. Wood, each 110 x 37.
St Nicholas, represented as bishop of Myra, balances his three golden balls on his book and St Lawrence, represented as a Roman deacon, holds the gridiron on which he was martyred. These two vertical paintings are evidently side panels from an altarpiece. They may have belonged to a triptych, with St Roch in the centre, mentioned by Ridolfi in the nearby church of San Vitale (or Vidal). Much restored (St Lawrence’s face has been completely redone). The neo-Gothic frames probably date from a restoration in 1912.
Washington. National Gallery.
Madonna and Child in a Landscape. Wood, 54 x 43.
The Virgin, standing behind a stone parapet against a cloth of honour of purple watered silk, supports the Child, whose feet rest on a small pillow or cushion. On either side are glimpses of a rocky and arid landscape. This graceful, richly coloured and remarkably well-preserved little panel may date from the mid-1470s. Landscapes are rare in Bartolomeo’s Madonnas. Acquired by Samuel H. Kress in 1933 from Contini Bonacossi and given to the Washington gallery in 1939.
Zumpano (near Cosenza in Calabria). San Giorgio Matire.
Triptych. Wood, 210 x 170.
The Virgin and Child are enthroned between St George and St Benedict (formerly identified as Augustine). Signed and dated 1480. The second of two altarpieces exported from Bartolomeo Vivarini's workshop to clients in Calabria; the first, dated 1477, is at Morano Calabro. There are no old references to the triptych, which was published as a work of Bartolomeo Vivarini only in 1927 (by Alfonso Frangipane in L'Arte in Calabria). It appears to be mainly of studio execution. It preserves its fine original carved and gilded frame. Restored in situ in 2008.