Giulio Carpioni

The Virgin and Child

Giulio Carpioni
( Venise, 1613 - Vicenza, 1678 )

Oil on copper 24.9x18.9 cm

La Pittura Eloquente, Maison d’Art, Monte-Carlo, 16 June – 16 July 2010, n.15.

L. Muti in La Pittura Eloquente, exh. cat., Maison d’Art, Monte-Carlo 2010, n.15, pp. 84 - 86, illus. p. 85.

The Virgin and Child before us displays the typical stylistic qualities of Carpioni. Although the figures of the Mother and Child adhere to iconographic tradition, their facial features reflect what was most favoured by the artist, and his way of conceiving and modelling forms.

Their expressions, the shapes of eyes and eyebrows, the definition of lips and noses, and even the arrangement of hair, are all part of a recurring and unmistakable repertoire, even when set within a limiting set of conventions. Thus it is for the Madonna, and for the Christ Child, whose gazes and physiognomies are archetypal creations of Carpioni, as found in other works of the 1640s, when this small copper was probably painted.

Everything fits into that game of theatrical decorum that gives the artist’s narration an air of suave, serene melancholy, never overemphatic or prettified - as might happen in the illustration of mythological fables – nor melodramatic.

Anything unique and over-intellectual is muted, becoming the regular heartbeat of a rigorously classical vision, so that Giulio’s world, animated by whimsical visions and shaped by an impossible reality, finds a still, balanced centre. Such an equilibrium was a matter of great moment, since what lies behind that apparent yet magical oxymoron is almost invisible: the composition of a scene, which should be a complex merging of line and colour, here provides us not with an artistic experience removed from life, but a lucid, crystalline insight into the human heart that is able to determine that it is fantasy that gives it its subtle grounding – a conscious, profound, intense and lyrical awareness of its earthly condition.

This was a theatre stage, filled and controlled not in order to pretend or conceal, but to experience the extraordinary things that have been given us to their very limit. In this respect Carpioni is no less an artist than Poussin, Reni or Ingres – indeed, perhaps he controls himself without betraying the slightest error and consigning his own work to a sphere of beauty immune from decay and the definition of time.

Laura Muti