Carpaccio produced a considerable body of work, mainly narrative cycles for the meeting-rooms of Venetian 'scuole', and example in Berlin would be the 'Ordination of Stephen as a Deacon'. The 'Preparation of Christ's Tomb' is one of his later works, and is very different from the rest of his œuvre. The austere style and the approach to the familiar theme, equally exceptional in the wealth of allusions and its gloomy mood, make the earlier attribution to Mantegna understandable. The semi-naked old man, crouching and lost in thought at the foot of the tree, can be interpreted as Job, the patient sufferer of the Old Covenant, humble before his God, and thus a familiar archetype for the suffering Christ. At the top left we can make out the crosses of Golgotha, and on the right Christ's mourning followers. If the various man-made objects suggest the passing of antiquity, the Renaissance-shaped legs of the table call to mind contemporary forms, and it is a Byzantine pictorial tradition which places Christ ceremonially on a table, where his body can be washed. The anvil-like central support stands for the red stone of unction, a highly revered relic in the Orthodox Church. The melancholy calm of this moment between death an resurrection is underlined by the trumpeter who is playing in the middle of this desolate scene. In another altar-panel, which is now in New York and was probably painted around 1505-07, Carpaccio again placed Job at the side of the dead Christ. Both paintings were in the Canonici collection in Ferrara in 1632. Nevertheless, the closely related theme raises the question of whether, as has recently been suggested, they could both actually have been painted for the Scuola di San Giobbe, which had been re-established after a move in 1504; other accompanying pieces are so far unknown, and the Berlin picture is sometimes dated as late as 1515-20.


  • Title: Preparation of Christ's Tomb
  • Creator: Vittore Carpaccio
  • Date Created: 1505
  • Physical Dimensions: w185.0 x h145.0 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Medium: Canvas
  • Style: Italian
  • Copyright Text: Text: © http://www.prestel.com, Prestel Verlag / Matthias Weniger // Photo: © http://www.bpk-images.de, b p k - Photo Agency / Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin / Jörg P. Anders
  • Collection: Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Artist information: Vittore Carpaccio was an Italian painter of the Venetian school, who studied under Gentile Bellini. His style generally veered on the conservative and bore the various influences of Antonello da Messina, his master Giovanni Bellini (through his use of colours and light) and early Netherlandish artists. Later on in his career, Cima da Conegliano may also have served as inspiration for him. Oriental subjects were famous in Venice during Carpaccio's lifetime, with 'The Baptism of the Selenites' (1507) being a good example of the impact this had on his work. From 1501 to 1507 he worked in collaboration with Giovanni Bellini in the Doge's Palace where they decorated the Hall of the Great Council. He is best known for 'The Legend of Saint Ursula', a cycle of nine paintings, which he executed from 1490 to 1491. In 1494, he took part in the decoration of the Scuola di San Giovanni Evangelista, after which he painted one of his most famous works, the 'Miracle of the Relic of the Cross' (1494).
  • Artist Place of Death: Capodistria, Italy
  • Artist Place of Birth: probably Venice, Italy
  • Artist Gender: male
  • Artist Dates: 1465/1526

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