Carlo Crivelli, Saint George Slaying the Dragon, 1470, tempera, gold, and silver on panel, 94 x 47.8 cm, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

BOSTON, MASS. (July 2015) – The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston will be the sole venue for the first ever monographic exhibition dedicated to Carlo Crivelli in the United States. Titled, Ornament and Illusion: Carlo Crivelli of Venice, the exhibition opens Oct. 22 and runs through Jan. 25, 2016.

Carlo Crivelli (about 1435–about 1495) is one of the most important – and historically neglected – artists of the Italian Renaissance. Distinguished by radically expressive compositions, luxuriant ornamental display, and bravura illusionism, his works push the boundaries between painting and sculpture. Crivelli manipulated the surface of each one with rare mastery of his medium, crafting visionary encounters with the divine, forging the modern icon, and offering a powerful alternative to new models of painting associated with Florence.

The exhibition brings together 23 paintings and the artist’s only known drawing. Newly cleaned and restored, the Gardner’s iconic Saint George Slaying the Dragon is the focal point for a two-part installation. The first reunites four of six surviving panels from Crivelli’s Porto San Giorgio altarpiece, of which the Gardner painting is a fragment. The second part introduces visitors to the artist’s repertoire of dazzling pictorial effects with some of his most important works in Europe and the United States.

Included in Ornament and Illusion are unprecedented loans from The National Gallery, London; the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt; the Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. Together, the works assembled in Boston reveal the artist’s astonishing skill, encompassing artistic vision, and relentless ambition, restoring Crivelli to his rightful place in the pantheon of Renaissance painters.

Crivelli was esteemed in his own time as a painter of rank and status. Born in Venice, he trained locally and joined a workshop in the mainland city of Padua, learning from the same master as the celebrated artist Andrea Mantegna (1430/1–1506). Exiled for adultery shortly after returning to Venice in 1457, Crivelli then embarked on a peripatetic career. Early successes on both sides of the Adriatic led to prestigious commissions in the Marches, a mountainous region of northeast Italy defined by its religious and ethnic diversity and ruled by competing feudal lords. He signed the immense high altarpieces for the cathedrals of Ascoli Piceno, in 1473, and Camerino, around 1490. Recognized for his remarkable artistic accomplishments with the aristocratic title of “knight,” Crivelli died around 1494.

The exhibition is organized by guest co-curator Stephen J. Campbell (Henry and Elizabeth Wiesenfeld Professor, Johns Hopkins University), guest co-curator Oliver Tostmann (Susan Morse Hills Curator of European Art, Wadsworth Athenaeum), and Nathaniel Silver (Assistant Curator of the Collection, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum).

Ornament and Illusion: Carlo Crivelli of Venice is accompanied by a catalog edited by Stephen J. Campbell. Seven essays challenge the prevailing view of Crivelli as a provincial artist working in an anachronistic “gothic” style, investigate the facture of his paintings, and shed new light on his rediscovery by collectors. Catalog entries deliver new insights and up-to-date bibliography for each work in the exhibition. Contributing authors include C. Jean Campbell (Emory University), Francesco De Carolis (Università di Bologna), Thomas Golsenne (École Nationale Supérieure d’Art de Nice), Gianfranco Pocobene (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), and Alison Wright (University College London).


Thursday, October 29th at 7pm

Carl Brandon Strehlke, Curator Emeritus of the John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Jeremy Melius, Assistant Professor, Tufts University

In Conversation

During Isabella Stewart Gardner’s lifetime, Carlo Crivelli’s works were esteemed by collectors, connoisseurs, and artists. Join us for a conversation exploring the role of his paintings in the formation of American collections and as an important source of inspiration for Pre-Raphaelite painters.

Saturday, November 14th at 2pm

Alison Wright, Professor, History of Art Department, University College London

Gilding the lily: Effects of ornament in the work of Carlo Crivelli

Crivelli’s devotional paintings can serve as a key body of work for examining the relationship between the claims of painting “in the modern manner,” which has come to dominate our notion of Renaissance art, and the continued validity of iconic forms and functions for images, especially those honoring Christ and the Virgin Mary. Rather than seeing Crivelli as a late “gold ground” painter, I will investigate the ways in which Crivelli inventively reworked the relationship between picture field and frame, between the object in relief and in fictive depth, between figure and “ornament,” in order to activate the religious image as a conduit of heavenly presence. Crivelli’s distinctively dense and layered approach to the depiction of sacred space will be compared with that of other fifteenth-century painters, including those of his native city of Venice and the admired works of Netherlanders.

Thursday, January 14th at 7pm

Stephen J. Campbell, Henry and Elizabeth Weisenfeld Professor, Johns Hopkins University

Venetian Artists on the Road

Stephen J. Campbell will explore the work of two painters from Venice, Carlo Crivelli (about 1430–about 1495) and Lorenzo Lotto (about 1480–1556), whose working lives were largely spent far from their native city. The work of both artists is well-represented in North American art museums. We will consider the questions: ­what difference does travel make to the work of an artist, and how do travelling artists have an impact on the places where they work?

Lectures include Museum admission and require a ticket. Tickets can be reserved online, in person, at the door, or by phone: 617-278-5156. Museum admission: adults $15, seniors $12, students, $5, free for members

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum • 25 Evans Way Boston MA 02115 • Hours: Open daily from 11 am to 5 pm and Thursdays until 9 pm. Closed Tuesdays. • Admission: Adults $15; Seniors $12; Students $5; Free for members, children under 18, everyone on his/her birthday, and all named “Isabella” • $2 off admission with a same-day Museum of Fine Arts, Boston ticket • Info Line: 617-566-1401 • Box Office: 617-278-5156 •

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—a work of art in totality—is at once an intimate collection of fine and decorative art and a vibrant, innovative venue for contemporary artists, musicians, and scholars. Housed in a 1902 building, modeled after a 15th-century Venetian palazzo, and a 2012 wing, designed by Renzo Piano, the Museum provides an unusual backdrop for the viewing of art. The Collection galleries installed in rooms surrounding the verdant Courtyard contain more than 2,500 paintings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture, manuscripts, rare books, and decorative arts featuring works by Titian, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Manet, Degas, Whistler, and Sargent. Visit the Gardner Museum online at for more about special exhibitions, concerts, innovative arts education programs, and evening events.

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