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A family of Italian painters.

Alvise Vivarini

Born in 1446 or 1447; died in 1502. He was the son of Antonio, and was educated by his uncle Bartolomeo. Of his early history very little is known. In 1488 he wrote to the Signoria in Venice, begging that he might be allowed to prove his skill side by side with that of the two Bellini in the decoration of one of the great rooms, that in which the Grand Council met. His petition was granted, but the pictures he executed have disappeared. In 1492, from the same body, he received the honorary title of Depentor in Gran Conscio and a stipend of five ducats a month. For some years he was by most critics connected with Giovanni Bellini, by some regarded as Bellini's pupil, or a foreman in his studio, and by others as a person of little interest, an unimportant Muranese painter, who imitated Bellini's methods and copied his ideas and technique. It is very largely owing to Bernhard Berenson's investigations when compiling his work on Lotto that Alvise has been given his rightful position as an eminent Venetian painter, who exercised great and lasting influences on his successors. He was an original workman, highly thought of in his own time, a great figure amongst the Venetian masters of the fifteenth century, by no means an unimportant member of the Vivarini family, and not a follower of Bellini, but eminent on his own account, and also because he was the master of Cima, Lotto, Montegna, and Bonsignori. His influence upon his pupils is considerable, and extends to others who were not specially known as his pupils, as Basaiti, Pordenone, and Antonello da Messina.

His first dated work is the polyptych of 1475, painted for Montefiorentino, and still to be seen in that Franciscan monastery. His Madonna of 1480 is in the Venice Academy. There is a picture dated 1483 at Barletta, one at Naples of 1485, a Madonna at Vienna, 1489, a head of the Saviour in Venice (1493), a Resurrection at Venice also of 1498. Then we come to the last great work, that of "St. Ambrose Enthroned", in the Frari Church at Venice, commenced in 1501, left incomplete at his death, and finished by Marco Basaiti. Many other works of his still exist, but are without date, and recent criticism has given back to Alvise a number of portraits which have hitherto passed under other names. There is but one signed portrait by him, that which formed part of the Salting Bequest; but, taking that as a starting-point, the pictures at Windsor Castle, in the Stuttgart Gallery, in the gallery at Padua, and in the possession of the Comtesse de Bearn, have been with considerable probability attributed to this painter. Many judges also attribute to him a portrait bequeathed to the National Gallery by the Misses Cohen as well as one belonging to Lord Wemyss, another in the possession of Lady Layard, and a fourth in the Signoria in Venice.

Antonio Vivarini

Born probably at Murano during the early part of the fifteenth century; died probably at Venice, after 1470. He may be regarded as the father of the famous Murano school of painting. Of his history we know very little. He gave security for his wife's dower on 4 February, 1446. Where he acquired his early teaching in painting is not known, but he was undoubtedly influenced by Gentile da Fabriano and by Pisanello. He worked in partnership with Giovanni da Murano; the earliest dated work bearing their united names is in the Academy at Venice, and is dated 1440, while another copy of it is in the Church of St. Pantaleone, and is dated 1444. The organ shutters of San Giorgio Maggiore executed by the two painters, are dated 1445, the "Virgin and Child Enthroned", in the Academy at Venice, bears the date of the following year. We know of the existence of a picture, dated 1447, which used to be in Padua, but which has disappeared; about that date Giovanni Murano probably died, because in 1450 Antonio entered into partnership with his brother Bartolomeo, and the Bologna Gallery possesses a very fine picture signed by the two brothers in 1450 and painted for the Certosa. A picture was painted for the Church of San Francesco at Padua in the following year; the partnership broke up in 1459, and the pictures following that time are signed by Antonio alone. The only really important one is now in the Lateran Gallery, and is dated 1467. Other places where the works of this painter may be studied are Brescia, Osimo, Pausula, Bergamo, Berlin, and Milan.

Bartolommeo Vivarini (Bartolommeo da Murano)

Born evidently at Murano, probably about 1425; died about 1499, certainly after 1490. He was a younger brother of Antonio, and must have been largely responsible for the artistic training of Alvise. His earliest dated work is the great group of the "Madonna and Child with Saints" (now in the gallery at Bologna), originally painted for the Certosa of that city, and regarded in northern Italy as one of the finest creations of its time. It bears a long inscription commemorating the faithful services of Cardinal Nicolo Albergati, the friend of Pope Nicolas V, who gave the commission for the picture. Another work signed by the brothers represents the "Glory of Saint Peter", painted for the Church of San Francesco at Padua, and now in the gallery of that city. Signed by Bartolommeo only, but with his full family name of Vivarini, is the panel of San Giovanni Capistrano (now in the Louvre), the earliest example bearing his signature alone. In 1464 the partnership appears to have relaxed, and then Bartolommeo stood as an independent painter, and a man of great originality and distinct personal qualities. In 1465 he painted his picture of the "Enthroned Virgin" (now in the Naples Museum) for a church at Bari. In 1473 he painted for the Church of Santa Maria Formosa (Venice) the "Virgin of Mercy", and in the same year his superb figure of Saint Augustine. To the following year belongs the Frari picture of the "Enthroned St. Mark". The picture of "St. Ambrose" at Vienna is dated 1477; the "Virgin and Child" at Venice, 1478; another "Virgin and Child" now at Turin, 1481; a smaller altarpiece now in the Frari church, 1482; and the "Saint Mary Magdalene" in the Academy at Venice is dated the same year. The last signed portrait is that of Saint Barbara in the Academy at Venice; it is dated 1490, but contemporary evidence seems to prove that Bartolommeo lived for several years after that date. In addition to the places mentioned, there are examples of his work at Fermo, Pausula, Boston, U.S.A., in the collection of Mr. Shaw, and in the collection of Lord Wemyss at Gosford. There are of course many pictures by his which bear no dates.


ALVISE: For the only really satisfactory study of Vivarini and his works see BERENSON, Lorenzo Lotto (London, 1901). See also ZANETTI, Venetian Painters (Venice, 1771).
ANTONIO: OLCOTT, Pamphlets (Siena, s.d.); PAOLETTI, The Painters of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Padua, 1895); BERENSON, Lorenzo Lotto (London, 1901); ZANETTI, Venetian Painters (Venice, 1771).
BARTOLOMMEO: ZANETTI, Venetian Painters (Venice, 1771).

About this page

APA citation. Williamson, G. (1912). Vivarini. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Williamson, George. "Vivarini." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to the Vivarini family.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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