(b. 1472, Venezia, d. 1526, Capodistria)

The Pilgrims Meet the Pope

c. 1492
Tempera on canvas, 281 x 307 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Canvas No. 6 of the series of nine large paintings "Stories from the Life of St Ursula".

The same colour tone and mood as in the Apotheosis, but used in a much more self-assured perspective composition, appears again in the Meeting between Pope Cyriacus and the Pilgrims. Scholars do not agree on the dating of this canvas and suggestions go from 1491, the same year as the Apotheosis of St Ursula, to 1493, the year of the Martyrdom of the Pilgrims and the Funeral of St Ursula. Even the question of the identification of the character in red standing next to Pope Cyriacus as Ermolao Barbaro, an eminent Humanist and the Venetian ambassador to the Vatican who died in 1493 after having fallen out of grace in Venice, is used in different ways by the advocates of the various chronological theories. The style of the canvas would appear to suggest a more mature period than the Pilgrims' Arrival in Cologne canvas, which dates from 1490.

The scene of the meeting takes place in the bright afternoon light: to the left, the retinue of virgins is shown approaching along the path, while the English Prince and Ursula, in the centre, kneel in front of Pope Cyriacus; and to the right the procession of bishops, prelates and dignitaries unfolds in the bright, sunlit meadow outside the walls of Rome. Each figure projects its own shadow to emphasize the hour of the day in which the historic meeting is taking place; like a brilliant colour prism it revolves slowly in an atmosphere of absolute enchantment. The calculated stage-like arrangement of the characters is echoed in the setting of the eight standards, the white mitres, the regular geometric shapes of the huge construction of Castel Sant'Angelo. Not even the tiniest of details is lost on this enormous stage: the lavish ornamentation of the damask copes, or the group of clarion players standing out against the sky on the castle's bastions, or the ivy clinging to the walls.