Vittore Carpaccio, St Augustine in his Study, a drawing

Venice, Italy, around AD 1502

This is a preparatory sketch for Carpaccio's painting in the Scuola di S Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice of around 1502. St Augustine, one of the most important scholar-saints of the early Christian Church, is interrupted as he writes a letter to his fellow scholar, St Jerome. Augustine looks up to the light which floods in at the window as he hears the voice of Jerome telling him of his death and ascent to Heaven. In the background is an altar with a statue of Christ and Augustine's bishop's mitre and staff. Books lie open on the bench on which Augustine sits, while others are piled up on the floor in front and on the shelves.

The drawing gives a marvellous, if idealized vision of a contemporary Venetian scholar's room. The figure of the saint is sketched only in outline; Carpaccio (1460-1525) was principally concerned in the lighting of the scene, not least because it plays such an important part in the painting's narrative. Varied shading contrasts with the white of the paper, and the upper half of the saint's body is untouched by shadow, giving the effect of being bathed in pure light.

Carpaccio was a Venetian artist who specialized in narrative paintings that set religious events in contemporary and domestic scenes. In this drawing, as in his paintings, he records everything in minute detail which impress his viewers with the reality of the story.

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More information


A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, Italian drawings in the Depa-5 (London, The British Museum Press, 1950)

D. Thornton, The scholar in his study, owne (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997)

V. Sgarbi, Carpaccio (Abbeville, 1998)

P. Fortini Brown, Venetian narrative painting in (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1988)


Height: 278.000 mm
Width: 426.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1934-12-8-1


Acquired with the aid of the National Art Collections Fund


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