VIDEO: Carpaccio the artist, not the appetizer, now getting his due
When most people think of “carpaccio,” they think of the thinly sliced raw beef appetizer made famous by Venice’s legendary Harry’s Bar. Few know that the dish is named after a lesser-known Venetian, the Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, because of the intense red tones he favored.
The painter Carpaccio has recently received more attention outside of his hometown of Venice. In November, the National Gallery in Washington opened the first retrospective exhibition of his work outside of Italy. The Vittore Carpaccio: Master Storyteller of Renaissance Venice show is set to move to Venice’s Palazzo Ducale showcase on March 18.
The Washington exhibition includes two carpaccio paintings that have left Venice for the first time in more than 500 years.
“We were a bit hesitant at first because there is always a risk in letting these masterpieces out of their natural habitat,” said Piergiorgio Millich, Grand Guardian of the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavon fraternity.
Also known as the Scuola Dalmata or Dalmatian School, the Venetian institution has 10 carpaccio paintings, most still under the umbrella of the same venue that originally commissioned the artist’s work.
Art restorer Valentina Piovan analyzed the works and undertook a year-long restoration before convincing the institution that some of the canvases could safely make the journey to Washington.
Piovan is currently working on the restoration of several other carpaccios at the Brotherhood’s headquarters, which was founded in 1451 by a group of Venetians as a social center to provide medical and spiritual support to members – mainly sailors of the Republic’s naval fleet. When the fleet defeated the Ottomans in the Turkish-Venetian Wars, they were paid well.
As a result, they were able to hire one of the best known Venetian painters of his time, Carpaccio, to paint a series of paintings dedicated to Saint George, the legendary figure who slew a dragon, rescued a princess and convinced the Selenites to convert to Christianity .
In the first painting of the Saint George and the Dragon cycle, a masterpiece over ten feet long, Carpaccio paints the saint on horseback, his spear thrust into the dragon’s jaws, and the body parts of partially devoured humans littered with the dragon. The princess, dressed in a red “carpaccio” robe, claps her hands together in gratitude as she watches the scene from a ledge above.
It’s classic carpaccio, a combination of narrative storytelling and attention to detail.
And it was clearly an inspiration for Giuseppe Cipriani, the Venetian restaurateur and owner of Harry’s Bar, who invented a dish named after the painter in the 1950s. According to the official Harry’s Bar story, Cipriani had a customer, Contessa Amalia Nani Mocenigo, whose doctors prescribed a strict diet of no cooked meat.
Cipriani invented a dish of sliced raw beef with a gravy of mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce and named it after the painter, partly because of its resemblance to his favorite red wines on display in Venice at the time.
“I think people are starting to appreciate paintings, Venetian paintings, since the beginning of the 16th century, and maybe also learning where the word carpaccio came from,” said Melissa Conn, director of the Venetian office of Save Venice, an American nonprofit , which has provided $400,000 for the restoration of several carpaccio works.
Trisha Thomas, The Associated Press
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