Carpaccio, Vittore (c.1460-c.1526)
Celebrated for his lively religious narrative cycles, Carpaccio was a prolific draftsman whose vibrant brushwork, often offset by colored paper, evokes the shimmering textures and tonalities of his paintings. The recto of this double-sided drawing demonstrates the importance of print sources for Carpaccio’s Middle Eastern settings and costumes. It derives from one of Erhard Reuwich’s woodcut illustrations to Bernhard von Breydenbach’s Peregrinatio in terram sanctam, 1486. The two women reappear, albeit reversed and refashioned, on the far left of The Triumph of Saint George, a canvas executed by Carpaccio and his workshop from about 1501 to 1508 for the confraternity of the Dalmatian merchants, also called the “Schiavoni” (Slavs). The painting, still in situ in Venice, is part of a cycle illustrating episodes from the life of the confraternity’s patron saints: Jerome, George, and Tryphon.
Although one can find similar faces throughout Carpaccio’s paintings, the portrait-like male head on this drawing has been associated with one of the onlookers in Saint Ursula and the Prince Taking Leave from Their Parents, from his celebrated Saint Ursula cycle, now in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice. This somber Venetian patrician shares the sheet with a more iconic lion’s head, executed with the same deft combination of black chalk and brushwork. The lion bears a distant resemblance to Carpaccio’s monumental painting Lion of Saint Mark, of 1516, in the Palazzo Ducale, Venice. Despite these compelling connections, the two heads are more easily understood as models provided by the artist for his workshop’s use rather than as preliminary studies for particular works. (PUAM)