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Letita Clulow


Vittore Carpaccio and the Venetian Altarpiece: From Storyteller to Renaissance Visionary.


Dr. Giorgio Tagliaferro.


My thesis will provide an in-depth analysis of the remaining altarpieces by the Venetian artist Vittore Carpaccio (1465-1525). Carpaccio is well known for his narrative cycles that adorned the walls of Venetian confraternity buildings; his altarpieces are less popular. Carpaccio was a pioneering artist with an inclination for experimentation, thus his altar paintings do not always fall within the expected paradigms of altarpiece design. Rather than revering the visionary aspect of this work, scholarship tends to position him as out of kilter with his peers. Consequently, Carpaccio’s altarpieces have been undervalued. My research intends to reposition Carpaccio’s altarpieces as a valued body of work.

 Mainstream thinking casts Carpaccio as a storyteller whose primary concern was to document Venetian life. This stance was reflected in the title of the recent exhibition ‘Vittore Carpaccio: Master Storyteller of Renaissance Venice’. My thesis will contend that Carpaccio was more than just a passive chronicler of his time, that he was a Renaissance visionary, at the forefront of modernity. It will examine the ways in which Carpaccio adopted leading-edge pictorial strategies founded on rationality and science which provided a forerunner for future altarpiece design. Consideration of Venetian art in relation to Renaissance values has traditionally been subject to Vasarian dichotomies, but more recent literature has sought to dispel these notions, providing the critical backdrop for this research. My thesis aims to reposition Carpaccio from a mere ‘storyteller’ to an intellectual artist who was a figurehead of the Renaissance movement in Venice. Its overarching purpose is to expand the field of interpretation for the modern spectator, who by connecting to the historicised viewer will be better equipped to understand these artworks which were created in a different time and place to their own. My research is supervised by Dr. Giorgio Tagliaferro, it aligns with his interest in altarpieces as privileged sites for pictorial experimentation in the Renaissance and will follow from his forthcoming publication, which centres on the viewing experience of Tintoretto’s altarpieces.


Areas of Interest:

Vittore Carpaccio and his contemporaries
The altarpiece in Renaissance Venice
Perspectival strategies in Italian Renaissance art
Spectator engagement in Renaissance painting
Power and propaganda in Vittore Carpaccio’s altarpieces
Vittore Carpaccio’s artworks for Istria
Vittore Carpaccio’s altarpieces in provincial centres of the Venetian Republic

Academic Background:

MA in History of Art, The University of Warwick

BA (hons) in Humanities with History of Art, The Open University

BA (hons) in English Literature and Theatre, St. Marys University