Carlo Crivelli  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Carlo Crivelli (c. 1435 – c. 1495) was an Italian Renaissance painter of conservative Late Gothic decorative sensibility, who spent his career mostly in the Marche, where he absorbed early influences from the Vivarini, Squarcione and Mantegna into a distinctive personal style that makes a contrast to his Venetian contemporary Giovanni Bellini.



Unlike the naturalistic trends arising from Florence at the same time, Crivelli's style still echoes the courtly International Gothic sensibility. The urban settings are jewel-like, and full of elaborate allegorical detail.

He favored verdant landscape backgrounds, and his works can be identified by his characteristic use of fruits and flowers as decorative motifs, often depicted in pendant festoons, which are a hallmark of the Paduan studio of Francesco Squarcione, where Crivelli may have worked. The National Gallery, London is well supplied with examples of Crivelli; the Annunciation with St Emidius, possibly his most famous painting, and the Beato Ferretti (of the same family as Pope Pius IX) in religious ecstasy, may be specified. Another of his principal pictures is in San Francesco di Matelica; in Berlin is a Madonna and Saints (1491); in the Vatican Gallery a Dead Christ, in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg is an Adoration of the Shepherds and in the Brera of Milan the Madonna of the Candle. There are also examples of his work in several major American galleries.

Despite his Venetian birth, his paintings have a linear Umbrian quality. Crivelli is a painter of marked individuality; unlike Giovanni Bellini, his contemporary, his works are not "soft", but clear and definite in contour, with astounding attention to detail. His use of "trompe l'oeil," often compared to painters of the Northern Renaissance such as Rogier van der Weyden, includes raised objects, such as tears and "jewels" modelled in gesso on the panel. Commissioned by the Franciscans and Dominicans of Ascoli, Crivelli's work is exclusively religious in nature. His paintings consist largely of Madonna and Child images, Pietà, and the by-then-old-fashioned altarpiece known as the polyptych. Often filled with images of suffering, such as gaping wounds in Christ's hands and side and the mouths of mourners twisted in agony, Crivelli's work appropriately fulfills the spiritual needs of his patrons. These ultra-realistic, sometimes disturbing qualities have often led critics to label Crivelli's paintings "grotesque", much like his fellow Northern Italian painter, Cosimo Tura.

Few artists seem to have worked with more uniformity of purpose, or more forthright command of his materials; this singlemindedness was recognised by the number of prestigious commissions he was awarded. It is possible that Carlo was of the same family as the painter Donato Crivelli (who was working in 1459, and was also a scholar of Jacobello); Vittorio Crivelli, with whom he occasionally collaborated, was his younger brother. Pietro Alemanno, a painter who had travelled to the March of Ancona from Germany/Austria, was his pupil/collaborator.

Death and legacy

Carlo Crivelli died in the Marche (probably Ascoli Piceno) around 1495. His work fell out of favour following his death and he is not mentioned in Vasari's Lives of the Artists (which is notably Florence-centric). He had something of a revival, especially in the UK, during the time of the pre-Raphaelite painters, several of whom, including Edward Burne-Jones were admirers of Crivelli. Admiration for his work declined with the decline of the pre-Raphaelites during the Modernist period, but recent writings on his work and a rehanging of his work in the National Gallery, London, are again bringing him more attention. The Madonna with child and saints can be seen in the town of Monte San Martino in Marche. In addition, the otherwise unremarkable church of San Giacomo Maggiore in the small hill town of Massignano in Marche boasts a Madonna and child by Crivelli.

See also

Selected list of works

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Carlo Crivelli" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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