This painting, whose central theme is the Adoration of the Child, dates from 1505 and is considered to be one of the artist’s most remarkable works. The cartellino on the base of the panel bears an inscription that reads 'VICTOR CARPATHIUS/MDV'.
The donors, who were sure to have been prominent figures in Venetian society, are represented realistically on the same scale as the sacred characters. This manner of integrating elements into the scene is a figurative practice that became widespread in the fifteenth century and reflects the influence of humanist values on art. The Child, who is lacking in any divine attributes, assumes a worldly aspect at the centre of the composition.
The painter represents the episode by using overlapping, independent narrative planes in rich, luminous colours that develop a sense of depth. The perspective is suggested by the alteration in the scale of the figures while the mid-ground consists of the wise men on horseback arranged in a line. A progressive softening of colour leads the observer’s eye to the subtle differentiation marking the boundary between sky and land. The complexity of the composition, which features harmoniously positioned verticals and diagonals and painstakingly rendered decorative groups, once again points to a fundamental aim of the period: the search for equilibrium.


  • Title: Holy Family and Donors
  • Creator: Vittore Carpaccio
  • Date Created: 1505
  • Location Created: Venice
  • Physical Dimensions: 90.1 x 133.9 cm
  • Medium: Tempera and oil (?) on panel

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