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National Gallery Presents Vittore Carpaccio, his First Retrospective Outside of Italy

Vittore Carpaccio, The Flight into Egypt, 1516/1518, oil on panel, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Andrew W. Mellon Collection.

A leading figure in the art of Renaissance Venice, Vittore Carpaccio (c. 1460-1526) is best known for his large, spectacular narrative paintings that brought sacred history to life. Celebrated in his native city of Venice for centuries, beloved for his observant eye, fertile imagination, and storytelling prowess, Carpaccio remains little known in the U.S.—except as a namesake culinary dish, “Steak Carpaccio.”

Vittore Carpaccio: Master Storyteller of Renaissance Venice is set to establish the artist’s reputation among American visitors with this, his first retrospective ever held outside Italy. The exhibition will be on view at the National Gallery of Art from November 20, 2022, through February 12, 2023. Some 45 paintings and 30 drawings will include large-scale canvases painted for Venice’s charitable societies and churches alongside smaller works that decorated the homes of prosperous Venetians. The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery and Musei Civici di Venezia, also the organizers of the 2019 exhibition Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice.

“The National Gallery of Art is pleased to partner, once again, with the Musei Civici di Venezia, this time to introduce American audiences to a lesser-known protagonist of the Venetian Renaissance, Vittore Carpaccio,” said Kaywin Feldman, director, National Gallery of Art. “Our visitors will be delighted by Carpaccio’s vivid and dynamic paintings that bring to life Venice in the 15th and 16th centuries. Through his masterful storytelling, Carpaccio illustrated the maritime empire during a fascinating period when it was a cultural crossroads between West and East. We are grateful to the many museums, churches, and collectors who have generously lent their works to share with the public in this historic exhibition.”

Several paintings have been newly conserved for the exhibition. Two of Carpaccio’s best-known canvases from the Scuola degli Schiavoni were treated with the support of Save Venice, the organization dedicated to the preservation of the city’s cultural heritage: Saint Augustine in His Study (shortly after 1502)and Saint George and the Dragon (c. 1504–1507). Other treatments uncover discoveries about the original compositions. National Gallery conservator Joanna Dunn’s treatment of the museum’s Virgin Reading (c. 1505) reveals a baby Jesus previously hidden beneath a later repainting that sought to disguise where the painting had been cut down centuries ago.

The two paintings from the Scuola degli Schiavoni are among several works never before exhibited outside Italy, including the full, six-painting narrative cycle, Life of the Virgin (c. 1502–1508) made for the Scuola di Santa Maria degli Albanesi. The exhibition also includes the reunification of Fishing and Fowling on the Lagoon (c. 1492/1494)from the J. Paul Getty Museum and Two Women on a Balcony (c. 1492/1494) from Venice’s Museo Correr—two paintings that likely adorned a folding door.

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