A group of Madonnas by Carpaccio
and Bartolomeo Veneto
Fig. 1 / Vittore
Carpaccio, Virgin and
Child, ca. 1488-1489,
oil on panel, 75 x
57.8 cm, Florence,
Private collection.
In recent years four paintings of the Virgin and Child
with very similar figure compositions have appeared in
the salesrooms of Sotheby’s, both in New York and in
London. Two of them have been traditionally associated
with Carpaccio (figs. 1 & 2); a third was traditionally
associated with Cima, but when presented for sale was
more wisely described as by a Follower of Giovanni
Bellini (fig. 3); and the fourth, while likewise once thought
to be by Cima, is certainly by Bartolomeo Veneto (fig. 4).1
The same composition is known from at least two more
Venetian Madonnas datable to the years around 1500:
one in the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, where
it carries an attribution to Bellini’s follower Lattanzio
da Rimini (fig. 5); and the other, signed by Bartolomeo
Veneto, in the Musée Fesch, Ajaccio (fig. 6). What follows
here is a brief attempt to make sense of these diverse
attributions, referring to several different workshops, by
reconsidering the six paintings as a group.
In the respective sales catalogues, the first of the two
Carpaccio Madonnas, which appeared in 2016 with no
known history, was cautiously described as “Attributed
to Vittore Carpaccio” (fig. 1). The main basis for the
attribution was knowledge of the other version (fig. 2),
which at that time was lost, but which reappeared
for sale at the beginning of 2019. Formerly in the
collection of Hermann Eissler, Vienna, this latter
version, although accepted by Berenson following an
inspection at some date in the 1920s, has occupied a
somewhat marginal place in studies of the painter.2 This
is probably largely because it has rarely been seen since,
and because of doubts about the authenticity of the
signature VICTORIS CARPAT(IO) on the cartellino on
the window-sill to the left. It is true that this has been
crudely reinforced, but its form in the Latin genitive
corresponds to that of his signatures on early works such
as the Virgin and Child with the Saint John the Baptist in the
Städel Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt. The chubby features
of the Child also closely resemble those of the Baptist
in the Frankfurt picture; and this, too, implies an early
date, perhaps the early 1490s, and certainly much earlier
than the only previously suggested date of ca. 15161518.3 At the January 2019 sale the ex-Eissler painting
was not unreasonably attributed to Carpaccio himself.


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