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

The Ambassadors Depart

1495-1500
Oil on canvas, 280 x 253 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Canvas No. 2 of the series of nine large paintings "Stories from the Life of St Ursula".

In the scene of the Ambassadors Depart Carpaccio takes us back to the formalities of an official ceremony. The interior of the diplomatic Chancery is constructed round the interplay of various perspective foreshortenings, like the huge corridor with the stairway above the grandiose arch through which we can see the sky. As far as the eye can see the sharp outdoor light emphasizes every detail, each depicted with absolute perfection and purity of form: the marble ornamentations, with the play of light and shadow in the colourful geometric patterns; the extraordinary candelabrum; the pure white sculpture that stands out against the gold niche, its surface so smooth that it looks like a work by Antonio Rizzo; the characters arranged in poses and attitudes suited to their role and function.

The regal dignity of Maurus and his counselors, some portrayed in splendid profile poses, is counterbalanced by the deferential homage being paid by the ambassadors, a contrast that is repeated in the figures of the haughty secretary and the humble scribe. Next to the bored-looking child in the red tunic, who observes his fellow in brown, shown reading, a gentleman introduces us to the ceremony with his left hand. The description of the crowd gathered along the steps and leaning against the balustrades of the building in the background is equally accurate. Everything is portrayed with great attention to detail, in the most perfect interaction of space, forms, light and colours, an anticipation of the Vision of St Augustine, the masterpiece of the cycle that Carpaccio painted in the early years of the 16th century for the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni.




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