Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies
Volume 43, 2012
pp. 133-146 | 10.1353/cjm.2012.0034
The work of painter Vittore Carpaccio throws new light on the gender ideals pervasive in Venetian society during the late fifteenth century. Recent conservation research has revealed that the artist’s most famous work, a rare domestic panel depicting two sumptuously attired women seated on a rooftop terrace or altana (Museo Correr, Venice) was, in fact, only the lower half of a painting whose upper portion depicted men hunting on the Venetian lagoon (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles). Yet scholars have continued to address the separated panels as if they each constituted an artistic whole, rather than addressing the complexities of the recomposed panel’s iconography. In this article, the entire painting is analyzed as a construction of contemporary notions of gender difference. The image is read as an accurate depiction of aspects of Venetian life, while also serving as an allegory of courtship through the representation of female passivity and virtue in contrast to male aggression in the midst of the hunt.