(b. ca. 1440, Murano, d. ca. 1499, Murano)
St Ambrose Polyptych1477
Tempera on wood, 125 x 47 cm (central panel), 108 x 36 cm (side panels)
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice
Unlike Mantegna's humanistic ideals of beauty, the rigour of Bartolomeo Vivarini's tormented vision is not softened even by the influence of the lyricism of Giovanni Bellini. In the St Ambrose polyptych Vivarini still uses the impenetrable gold ground on which the figures with their obvious sculptural quality, stand in isolation, each within their own compartment on their marble plinth of uncertain perspective. In the central panel the icon-like figure of St. Ambrose sits rigid on his throne while at his feet kneel the members of the confraternity, commissioning the altarpiece, in the proportions dictated by the Mediaeval iconographic tradition.
The figures on the side panels are Sts Louis, Peter, Paul, and Sebastian.