The Meditation on the Passion

Artist: Vittore Carpaccio (Italian, Venice 1460/66?–1525/26 Venice)

Date: ca. 1490

Medium: Oil and tempera on wood

Dimensions: Overall 27 3/4 x 34 1/8in. (70.5 x 86.7cm); painted surface 26 3/16 × 33 1/4 in. (66.5 × 84.5 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1911

Accession Number: 11.118


This extraordinary work by Carpaccio is a landmark in the history of devotional images. It is, in effect, a meditation on the theme of Death and Resurrection. To the right, the Old Testament figure Job sits on a block inscribed in pseudo-Hebrew, while on the left, portrayed as a hermit, is Saint Jerome (ca. 347–420), who wrote a commentary on the book of Job. Christ’s dead body is displayed on a broken throne, also inscribed in pseudo-Hebrew. A bird—symbol of the soul—flies upwards. The landscape, barren on the left and pastoral on the right, alludes to the contrasting themes of life and death, as do the animals that inhabit it. The turbaned figures in the background would have been familiar to Venetians through their trade with the Middle East and Egypt.