The biography of Bartolomeo Vivarini (1432 - 1499)

Bartolomeo or Bartolommeo Vivarini (c. 1432 – c. 1499) was an Italian painter, known to have worked from 1450 to 1499. He was a member of one of Venice’s famous families of artists. Both his brother Antonio Vivarini and Antonio’s son Alvise Vivarini were also painters. Antonio Vivarini seldom worked independently. He 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, and until the death of Antonio’s son Alvise Vivarini. None of the three had much originality.

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.

He learned oil painting from Antonello da Messina and is said to have produced, in 1473, the first oil picture done in Venice. Housed in the basilica of San Zanipolo, it is a large altar-piece in nine divisions, representing Augustine and other saints. Most of his works, however, are in tempera. His outline is always hard and his color good, the figures have much dignified and devout expression.

The Getty Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Louvre, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), the National Gallery, London, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana (Milan), Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, the Rijksmuseum and the Uffizi are among the public collections holding works by Bartolomeo Vivarini.

At the Church of S. Maria Formosa is Vivarini’s polyptych of the Madonna of Mercy (1473). At the Church of S. Giovanni in Bragora are a Resurrection (1498) and a triptych of the Virgin Mary between St. John the Baptist and St. Andrew (1478). At the Church of S. Eufemia is a triptych of S. Rocco and an Angel with a lunette of the Mother and Child (1480). Several of his polyptychs are in the collection of the Accademia in Venice.