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August 6 (San Salvador)

August 6 is the Feast of the Transfiguration and for centuries, this was the day that the beautiful Pala d'Argento was unveiled in the church of San Salvador. This Gothic altar screen spends most of the year hidden behind Titian's painting of The Transfiguration on the high altar of the church (though since la pala's recent restoration, I think the church has been showing it on other high holy days too).

You can see the gorgeous restored Pala d'Argento in this 2011 YouTube video.

supper at emmaus

Speaking of art in San Salvador, its two Titians receive most of the attention, but there's another masterpiece with a fascinating story inside this church. It’s such a cool thing when an art history mystery is solved.

Supper at Emmaus was believed to be the work of the great Giovanni Bellini for many centuries up until about 100 years ago. Lorenzetti (whose Venice and its Lagoon was published in the early 20th century) attributes the painting to Bellini and praises it, saying that it’s “remarkable for its luminous colour and the loftiness of its conception.”

Somewhere along the way in the 20th century, art historians decided that it wasn’t painted by Bellini but was perhaps from his workshop. Hugh Honour (Companion Guide to Venice, 1965) says of the art in the church of San Salvador: “There are three outstanding pictures in the church. In the nave there is a "Supper at Emmaus" painted in clear bright colors and flooded with Venetian light…it has been attributed to Giovanni Bellini, though most authorities now assign it to a follower.”

Then during a 1998 restoration by Save Venice, a date (1513) and an inscription were discovered that helped to prove that it was actually painted by Vittore Carpaccio. The fact that there’s a Turk wearing a turban helped to solve the mystery too. The full story is here (The Rediscovery of Carpaccio’s “Supper at Emmaus”, Dated 1513, in the Church of San Salvador).

That little bird in the foreground sure looks like something Carpaccio would paint.

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Comments (3)

Daniel:

Annie,
Beautiful painting and fascinating story. You have a way of showing us new things that have been in front of us all along but we missed somehow. I commend you and thank you for that.

Bert:

I am reading the Save Venice piece and noticed this: "the eminent Italian painting conservator, Ottorino Nonfarmale". What a surname for a conservator! Don't-do-wrong. I can't help but wonder if it is a pseudonym.

Christian:

Thank you, Annie. The essential blog for all true Venetophiles.

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