Room 59

Carlo Crivelli and His Contemporaries

Carlo Crivelli was born in Venice but, banished from the city for adultery, he settled in the Italian Marches in 1468. His works are characterised by a tension between the real and unreal. Crivelli painted naturalistic details, intended to convince viewers of the reality of the holy characters he depicted. These include still-life elements, such as ceramics, textiles and carpets, and beautifully observed fruit and flowers, birds and insects.

Other aspects are deliberately artificial and were meant to call attention to the fact that these are painted pictures with spiritual or mystical messages. His crisply delineated figures, for example, often adopt unnaturally complicated poses. In addition, Crivelli sometimes incorporated pieces of coloured glass as jewels, or executed other details in gilded relief. These three-dimensional elements are more ‘real’ than anything he could paint and project beyond the surface of the picture into the viewer’s space. They connect the two worlds, literally and spiritually, to one another.