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(b. 1472, Venezia, d. 1526, Capodistria)

Birth of the Virgin

Tempera on canvas, 126 x 128 cm
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

Carpaccio painted the Stories from the Life of the Virgin between 1504
and 1508 in the Scuola degli Albanesi, consecrated to Mary and to St
Gall. This building, which still exists, was constructed around the year
1500 on a piece of land belonging to the monastery of the Augustinian
friars at San Maurizio; the confraternity it housed consisted mostly of
the community of Illyrians who had settled in Venice in great numbers
especially after the Turkish conquest of Scutari in 1479. The six small
paintings are today in four different museums: the Accademia Carrara in
Bergamo (Birth of the Virgin), the Brera in Milan (Presentation in the
Temple and Wedding of the Virgin), the Giorgio Franchetti Gallery in the
Ca' d'Oro in Venice (Annunciation and Death of the Virgin) and the
Correr Museum in Venice (Visitation).

As compared with the earlier, the level of invention and innovation in
these works is fairly poor, as is the range and depth of colour; this
cannot be explained entirely by the fact that Carpaccio was assisted in
this task only by mediocre helpers and that he was less interested in
this commission than he had been in the cycle for San Giorgio degli
Schiavoni. Carpaccio was quite obviously finding it difficult to develop
his art in the climate of spiritual revolution initiated by Giorgione.
And yet, in these subjects he occasionally shows a renewed interest in
the everyday aspects of existence. Especially in the Birth of the Virgin
he investigates with great attention to detail the interior scenes, and
every last element of the decoration, recreating a mood of intimacy
thanks to a use of soft tints, further mellowed by a diffuse lighting.