CF STUDIES JOURNAL 06 - Page 13



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“Et de presente habita ser vetor scarpaza depentor”: new documents on Carpaccio’s house and workshop at San Maurizio
“Et de presente habita ser vetor scarpaza depentor”: new documents on Carpaccio’s house and workshop at San Maurizio
It is within such an intricate plot that Vittore Carpaccio,
at the time a successful painter in his fifties,24 makes his
first appearance. As indicated by a document dated
21 September 1513, Pin’s confiscated land, “in the
neighbourhood of San Maurizio”, bordered the Grand
Canal on the south, the Ca’ Corner on the east, and
properties of the Muazzo family on the west. To the
north, it was delimitated by “a street which leads to said
houses and attached land, in which ser Antonio de Sereni
used to live, and [in which] the painter ser Vetor Scarpaza
currently lives; the said house in which ser Vetor Scarpaza
lives borders side by side on one of the said houses”.25
The first bone of contention was a small parcel of
land wedged between Pin’s and Corner’s properties. It
consisted of a vacant plot with a small casa da serzenti.
Acquired for 120 ducats by the heirs of a certain
Maria widow of Bortolo Franceschi dell’Oro (20 June
1481), the property was sold for 250 ducats to Giorgio
Corner on 20 December 1482.16 Only two months later,
however, Francesco Pin obtained the cancellation of the
sale by making pre-emption claims on the land Corner
had just bought.17 By this sleight-of-hand, the Pin family
became the owner of a large property – with some
buildings already constructed and some in the planning.
At the beginning of the sixteenth century it had in fact
been improved greatly: along with the casa da stazio,
the well, the two case da serzenti, and the vacant plot of
land, the area included nine more case da serzenti, two
courtyards, as well as a squero (boat-building yard). To
Giorgio Corner’s dismay, what had started as a modest
landed property adjoining his palace soon turned into a
housing estate.
Fig. 2 / Jacopo de' Barbari,
View of Venice (detail
highlighting the location
of the Ca' Corner), 1500,
woodcut, 135 x 282 cm.
Francesco Pin died in 1502,18 bequeathing his heirs
with the bulk of his wealth and, inevitably, the
unresolved business with Giorgio Corner. Giovanni, the
first and only legitimate male child of Francesco and
Ginevra,19 soon had to deal with this heavy legacy. On
the top of that, another contender was about to enter
the scene and further complicate the matter.
Francesco and Ginevra had four daughters: Cataruzza,
Isabetta, Caterina, and Zanetta.20 On 8 March 1507,
Isabetta married Carlo da la Bassa di Giovanni, a
Bolognese man of some means who owned a casa da
stazio near the church of San Domenico and other
rental properties within, and outside of, Bologna.21
As specified by the wedding contract, Giovanni Pin
promised his new brother-in-law a dowry of 1,000
ducats, plus the collection of a debt of 331 ducats.22
Six years passed before Carlo decided to cash in on his
investment. Lacking the money he owed his brotherin-law, Giovanni managed to buy time from the Giudici
del Proprio, but this came at a cost: he had until the end
of February 1514 (m.v.) to pay off his debt, or else a
portion of his family’s estate in San Maurizio – eleven
case da serzenti, the squero, the well and the vacant plot
of land – would be given to his creditor.23 In short,
Giovanni had five months to prevent his family’s
property from being partitioned, auctioned and bought
by a third party, in all likelihood Giorgio Corner who
had been waiting patiently for years.
Although obscure in a number of passages, the document
proves that Carpaccio lived in San Maurizio in 1513,
possibly occupying not just one, but in fact numerous
houses (“said houses” and “said house”) where a certain
Antonio de Sereni had once lived. To clarify the rather
ambiguous language of the document and determine
the nature and extent of Carpaccio’s home with more
precision, it is necessary to turn to Giovanni Pin’s condizione
di decima (tax declaration) filed on 27 February 1514 (m.v.):
And first the casa da stazio with ground floor
and upper storey in the neighbourhood
of San Maurizio [where] ser Antonio de
Sereni used to live and painter ser Vetor
Charpazio currently lives, old and in a
poor condition with three small houses
underneath it; renting all of them I earn 38
ducats, that is ducats thirty-eight.26
Giovanni’s decima offers the opportunity to address some
important issues. Firstly, it demonstrates without further
question that Carpaccio lived in Pin’s casa da stazio in
San Maurizio, the same casa da stazio that Francesco
Pin had acquired thirty-five years earlier. Secondly, it
confirms that Pin’s casa da stazio had been inhabited
by Antonio de Sereni before Carpaccio moved in.
According to current research, Pin’s former tenant
could be identified as a long-standing brother of the
Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista: in fact a
powerful member of the banca (governing board) which
he administered twice, in 1489 and 1496.27 It would
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appear, then, that Francesco Pin had rented his casa
da stazio to a person with whom he was acquainted, as
they twice alternated in the role of Guardian Grande
in the 1490s. Thirdly, although the document does not
specify the layout and scale of the building, it clearly
states that Carpaccio had a two-storey casa da stazio
at his disposal – possibly featuring a ground-floor
hall (androne) and reception hall (portego) on the upper
piano nobile, two architectural elements common to all
Venetian buildings of this type.28 What is more, the
casa da stazio stood along the Grand Canal – that is,
Venice’s grand ceremonial waterway – and shared
borders with a palace, Ca’ Corner, which Sanudo
characterized as “the most beautiful house in Venice
and I could say in Italy”.29 In other words, Pin’s casa da
stazio most certainly conferred an upscale social status
on Carpaccio, especially as its alleged “poor condition”
may actually reflect the landlord’s attempt to lower the
tax estimate.30 Fourthly, the house included three case
da serzenti. Further documents, which will be discussed
below, may support the conjecture that Carpaccio had
his workshop installed in them; for now, it shall suffice
to observe that the three small houses were attached
to the casa da stazio and, in all likelihood, stood along
today’s Calle del Dose da Ponte.31 Finally, Carpaccio
paid an annual rent of 38 ducats: 23 ducats for the
casa da stazio and 15 ducats for the case da serzenti.32 The
rental charge seems relatively low and might suggest
that Carpaccio was able to negotiate a special price,33
perhaps as a consequence of his acquaintance with
the Pin family since the mid-1490s. Be that as it may,
it should be stressed that not all painters of the time
could afford to spend that much on their residence.
Giovanni Mansueti, for instance, lived in a house for 10
ducats, whereas Giovanni Buonconsiglio and Girolamo
Mocetto paid 8 ½ and 13 ducats respectively for their
rent.34 It can thus be argued that by 1513, Carpaccio
had reached a financially comfortable status, one that
allowed him to afford not only a sizeable residence to
live in, but also a relatively large workshop space in
which he could carry out his commissions. Hence, one
can only imagine how Carpaccio would have reacted to
the news that Pin’s neighbouring properties had been
impounded.

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