In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the work of Carlo Crivelli (c.1430/5-
94/5) among historians of early modern art. With his combination of traditional techniques,
such as the gold ground, and witty effects of pictorial illusion, Crivelli’s work makes an
effective case study for revisionist methods in art history, demonstrating the fluid boundary
between ‘medieval’ and ‘renaissance’ art. However, the findings have been fragmentary,
mostly conveyed in articles, essays and multi-author exhibition catalogues. Moreover, the
relationship between Crivelli’s technical practice and the functions of his paintings in their
original setting has not been the subject of sustained analysis.
This thesis applies a new methodology to the study of Crivelli’s work. It examines his
paintings as material objects, drawing upon recent technical analysis carried out at the
National Gallery, London, in light of the devotional practices of his original viewers, and
contemporary theological and art-theoretical debates. By applying a holistic approach, this
thesis enables a nuanced understanding of how Crivelli’s distinctive pictorial language
operated in the Marche region on Italy’s east coast, where he worked during the second half
of the fifteenth century. The first part is a case study of Crivelli’s altarpieces for the town of
Ascoli Piceno, which serves to underpin his practice in geographic terms. It investigates the dialogues Crivelli’s paintings pose with local examples of goldsmiths’ and textile art, festive
customs, and the spectatorship of his Dominican patrons. A technical study of Crivelli’s
polyptychs for the Order of Preachers explores the rigour of his methods and their visual
results. This introduces the themes of the latter chapters, which investigate material and
pictorial interplay. It is argued that the use of three-dimensional relief, and Crivelli’s tempera
technique, inform how his pictures function as interfaces between the viewer and the
sacred. Crivelli’s paintings are interpreted in relation to medieval theories of artistic creation,
demonstrating that the interaction between ornament, figure and ground aids his pictures to
perform their devotional function.
Permanent link to this resource: https://doi.org/10.24384/5w84-0w03
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Supervisors: Campbell, Caroline; Leino, Marika; Payne, Christiana
Department of History, Philosophy and CultureFaculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Arts and Humanities Research Council
: StipendGladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
: Research placement in Venice
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