The Healing of the Possessed Man – Carpaccio

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I have been sorting through a heap of photos of late and I came across a series of photos taken in Venice at my last visit. Apart from the beauty of the architecture (of which I never tire) and of course, the many tourists, there was one photo in particular that resonated with me of the Rialto Bridge. This brought to mind an extraordinary painting by Vittore Carpaccio (image above) which I love and which captures so much of what Venice was and is still today – if you like a Renaissance ‘snapshot’.

The Healing of the Possessed Man by Vittore Carpaccio (1494, Oil on Canvas 3.7 x 3.9m, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice) is quite frankly, breathtaking. This work was done as part of the redecoration of the meeting house of the Scuola Grande di S. Giovanni Evangelista, and Carpaccio, who was an esteemed scuola painter was commissioned to paint one of the works.

This painting is just alive and although it potrays the healing of a possessed man in the palace of the Patriarch of Grado located near the Rialto Bridge, it is so very much more. What you get from this painting is the sense of the life of the merchants who lived, worked and traded around the Rialto, and their interaction with one another. This was a place of business and commerce and the sense of movement that this painting conveys takes you into the very centre of this activity. Carpaccio wants the viewer to be drawn into the scene, as if he or she were an eyewitness to the events, so much so that you can imagine trying to make your way through the throng of merchants. Then there are the gondolas competing for position, while behind you have the architecture, which appears almost secondary to the activity. Yet Carpaccio draws the viewers attention from the dark earth tones, punctuated with red and scarlet, to the sky, which has an uplifting impact, drawing us the title of the painting – the healing of the possessed man – which is featured, almost inconsequentially,in the upper portico on the left hand side of the painting. As Patricia Brown noted this holy event just becomes one more activity in this centre of Venetian commerce. If you like, a blending of the sacred and the profane.

If you have ever been to Venice, take some time to consider this work – it truly is masterful and worthy of your appreciation.

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