Ciao, Carpaccio!

In The American Scholar, Autumn 2014 (pp. 87-91), a piece by Jan Morris, “Carnival of the Animals: The Italian artist Carpaccio cast a careful, loving eye on his many nonhuman subjects” — an essay adapted from her book Ciao, Carpaccio!: An Infatuation (published on November 3rd). The book is an appreciation (with lots of color plates) of the 15th-century Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio, and this essay is an appreciation of Carpaccio’s depictions of animals and birds, as in the Flight Into Egypt:

Morris writes that the ass bearing the Holy Family away from Herod’s slaughter is “as elegant as any Golden Stallion, and as beautifully groomed.”

From Wikipedia:

Vittore Carpaccio ( … c. 1465 – 1525/1526) was an Italian painter of the Venetian school, who studied under Gentile Bellini. He is best known for a cycle of nine paintings, The Legend of Saint Ursula. His style was somewhat conservative, showing little influence from the Humanist trends that transformed Italian Renaissance painting during his lifetime. He was influenced by the style of Antonello da Messina and Early Netherlandish art. For this reason, and also because so much of his best work remains in Venice, his art has been rather neglected by comparison with other Venetian contemporaries, such as Giovanni Bellini or Giorgione.

Carpaccio was born in Venice or in Capodistria in Istria (then part of Venice, now Koper in Slovenia), the son of Piero Scarpazza, a leather merchant. The family background was Istrian, which may explain his special association with the Dalmatian School in Venice. Although few details of his life are known, according to some Albanian authors his parents were Albanian from Korçë. His principal works were executed between 1490 and 1519, ranking him among the early masters of the Venetian Renaissance. He is first mentioned in 1472 in a will of his uncle Fra Ilario. Upon entering the Humanist circles of Venice, he changed his family name to Carpaccio.

On the name change, from Morris:

When Latin forms became all the rage among the literati of Venice, Vittore Latinized his signature indiscriminately as Carpatio, Charpatio, Carpatius, Carpacio, Carpazio, Carpathus, or Carpathius. Only after his death did Carpaccio catch on.

And then there’s the raw meat preparation carpaccio, which it turns out was named (pretty recently) after the painter; the story is told in “More raw protein” of 8/13/13.

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