VIVARINI, family of painters
(15th century, Venice)
Vivarini, family of Venetian painters. Descended from a family of glassworkers active in Murano, Antonio Vivarini became prominent in Venetian painting c. 1440, producing many joint works with his brother-in-law Giovanni d'Alemagna. Antonio also often collaborated with his younger brother Bartolomeo Vivarini, and the family dynasty remained important until the death of Antonio’s son Alvise Vivarini. None of the three had much originality.
Antonio (c. 1415-76/84) seldom worked independently. He collaborated first with his brother-in-law, Giovanni d'Alemagna (active 1441-49/50), and secondly with his own younger brother, Bartolomeo (c. l432-c. l499). Because of the collective nature of much Vivarini workshop activity, connoisseurs have remained unusually confused about Antonio’s work, and attributions, particularly as regards his late work, are often misleading. Their pictures usually took the form of large-scale polyptychs with stiff, archaic-looking figures and very elaborate carved and gilded frames in the Gothic tradition. After Giovanni d’Alemagna’s death in 1450, Antonio probably continued to produce independent works; from c. 1460 he ran the workshop alone.
Bartolomeo (c. 1440-c. 1500) was the brother of Antonio Vivarini. The date of 1432, sometimes given for his birth, is derived from an inscription, almost certainly faked, on an inferior Virgin and Child (untraced). His independent works date from the 1460s onwards. He continued to paint polyptychs, but he modernized his style to a certain extent by imitating Mantegna.
Alvise (c.1445-1503/5), son of Antonio. He is first mentioned in the wills of his mother in 1457 and 1458. He was probably trained by his uncle, but later adopted the manner of Giovanni Bellini. He emerged as an independent artist in 1476 when he was enrolled in the Scuola della Carita, Venice, and signed a polyptych (Urbino, Palazzo Ducale) for the Franciscans of Montefiorentino in the Marches. In 1488, conscious of the family prestige, he petitioned to work alongside the Bellini in the Sala del Gran Consiglio of the Doge’s Palace. He was allotted three canvases, but at his death two were incomplete and one only begun. Vasari mentioned these historical scenes (destroyed 1577) and also referred to him as the ‘unhappy Vivarini’, confirming an impression, conveyed in documents, that he became ill in his last years. Perhaps for this reason he died poor and in debt.