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Vittore Crivelli, a Renaissance Billy Baldwin

Main image credit | Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest
Main image credit | Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Vittore is the shit brother of the Crivelli family of painters.

Or so they say.

The famous one is Carlo. Their dad is Jacopo. And the little one is Giacomo. Then there is Vittore: Dannii of the Minogues; Don of the Swayzes; Billy of the Baldwins if you will.

Actually, no.

All the Baldwins.

(Sorry Alec, no amount of 30 Rock can erase Cat in a Hat)

It’s not that Vittore was bad. He just wasn’t as good, nor his paintings as picture perfect, as that of his big bro’s.

Maybe if he hadn’t been related to Carlo, history would have remembered him as a decent fifteenth-century painter. Instead, not only are his modern-day biographies scant, but they persistently introduce him as the ‘less able Crivelli’.

Poor Vittore.

However, since this is a post about a lesser known artist being made less lesser known, we go onwards and upwards.

Figure 1: Image credit | The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford / Art Uk

VC was Venetian, born around 1435. By 1465 he had scuttled off to Zara (Zadar today) following in his brother’s footsteps, where he stayed until 1479. There he painted a bit, took on a pupil or two, and may or may not have had a workshop.

(He probs did).

After that he moved to the Marches to work for Ludovico Euffreducci of Fermo.

(Or Gross Coldie as he shall henceforth be known).

Again, following Carlo.

(Codependent much?)

Figure 2: Image credit | The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Employment by Sir Gross Coldie proved handy, for he started semi-churning out altarpieces for public buildings in minor cities and towns. Particularly those connected to the Franciscans in some way.

He did some good works for Sant’Elpidio a Mare, San Severino Marche, and Monte San Martino. That being said, the armchair psychologist here thinks it more than likely that he must have been a little miffed by how much better Carlo was being received by the beautiful and the good ppl of the Marches.

For instance:

Carlo was knighted

Carlo worked for all the fancy local courts.

Vittore was not knighted

Vittore worked for the local hoi polloi (parish churches and wotnot)

On the other hand, when Carlo died in 1495, Vittore was quick to claim his brother’s inheritance.

(The greedy sod).

Figure 3: Image credit | The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Vittore himself died c. 1501, yet again a few steps behind Carlo. At the time he was mid-way through a project for the church of San Francesco in Osimo, a project that was disregarded subsequently and replaced by something totally different.

One really can’t help but feel a bit sorry for him, particularly after taking the time to look at his paintings, which aren’t half bad.

What survives is mostly bits from altarpieces which would have been part of much grander polyptychs. While his works are mainly to be found in Italy, there are a few examples here in the UK. These include a couple of St Catherines, one in the Ashmolean in Oxford (fig. 1), and another in the V and A (fig. 2). And then there’s a bit of a gloomy looking St Jerome, also in the V and A (fig. 3).

Figure 4: Image credit | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Quite a few other examples have crossed international borders, with a very pretty Madge and Child, finding itself at the Met (fig. 4), and another in Budapest (main image).

While most of the works I’ve seen by him in person are charming, and pretty decent (if not hugely inventive), a google search strongly suggests that some of my favourites might be those that are still in the local museums and churches of the Marches.

Therefore, on my next trip to Florence I will do what no tourist ever does: go deep East.

In particular I’m very keen on seeing the polyptych now in the Pinacoteca Civica in Sant’ Elpidio a Mare (fig. 5). I want to see the Eeyoreesque saints, the funny little putti that look like oranges, and, especially, the groovy young man (saint presumably) holding a castle in the top left hand part of the work.

Figure 5: Image credit | Wikimedia Commons

Vittore, man, I believe in you. Never change.


A Western Art History blog by someone who sometimes gets paid  to read and write about Western Art History. Mostly Old Masters. Mostly Italian. Hopefully accurate.

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