Friday, January 11, 2013

Crivelli, Carlo

Portrait of Saint George
Tempera on wood with gold ground
96.5 x 33.7 cm (38 x 13 1/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

This panel "Saint George" and its companion "Saint Dominic", originally formed part of a polyptych. The central panel, a "Madonna and Child" signed and dated 1472, is also in the Metropolitan Museum. Of his early polyptychs, only one, the altarpiece from Ascoli Piceno, survives complete in its original frame; all the others have been disassembled and their panels are divided among the world's museums.

Carlo Crivelli (c.1435 - c.1495) was an Italian Renaissance painter of conservative Late Gothic decorative sensibility. He was born in Venice to a family of painters, and received his artistic formation there and in Padua. By 1458 he left the Venice and spent most of the remainder of his career in the Marche (March of Ancona), where he developed a distinctive personal style that makes a contrast to his Venetian contemporary Giovanni Bellini. His style echoes the courtly International Gothic sensibility. The urban settings are jewel-like, and full of elaborate allegorical detail. He is a painter of marked individuality; unlike Bellini, his contemporary, his works are not "soft", but clear and definite in contour, with astounding attention to detail.

Crivelli painted in tempera only, despite the increasing popularity of oil painting during his lifetime, and on panels, though some of his paintings have been transferred to canvas. His predilection for decoratively punched gilded backgrounds is one of the marks of the conservative taste, in part imposed by his patrons. 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. Commissioned by the Franciscans and Dominicans of Ascoli, his work is exclusively religious in nature. His paintings consist largely of Madonna and Child images, Pieta, 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, his 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".

Crivelli died in the Marche around 1495. His work fell out of favor following his death. He had something of a revival, especially in the UK, during the time of the pre-Raphaelite painters. 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.

Saint George (c. 275/281 - 303) was a Greek who became an officer in the Roman army. His father was the Greek Gerondios from Cappadocia Asia Minor and his mother was the Greek Polychronia from the city Lyda. Lyda was a Greek city from the times of the conquest of Alexander the Great (333 BC), now in Israel. He became an officer in the Roman army in the Guard of Diocletian. He is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography, Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic (Western and Eastern Rites), Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints.