Knights of the Art
Like most of the other great painters, Giovanni Bellini had many pupils working under
him--boys who helped their master, and learned their lessons by watching him work.
Among these pupils was a boy called Vittore Carpaccio, a sharp, clever lad, with keen
bright eyes which noticed everything. No one else learned so quickly or copied the
master's work so faithfully, and when in time he became himself a famous painter, his
work showed to the end traces of the master's influence.
He must have been a curious boy, this Vittore Carpaccio, for although we know but little
of his life, his pictures tell us many a tale about him.
In the olden days, when Venice was at the height of her glory, splendid fetes were given
in the city, and the gorgeous shows were a wonder to behold. Early in the morning of
these festa days, Carpaccio would steal away in the dim light from the studio, before the
others were astir. Work was left behind, for who could work indoors on days like these?
There was a holiday feeling in the very air. Songs and laughter and the echo of merry
voices were heard on every side, and the city seemed one vast playground, where all the
grown-up children as well as the babies were ready to spend a happy holiday.
The little side-streets of Venice, cut up by canals, seem like a veritable maze to those who
do not know the city, but Carpaccio could quickly thread his way from bridge to bridge,
and by many a short cut arrive at last at the great central water street of Venice, the Grand
Canal. Here it was easy to find a corner from which he could see the gay pageant, and
enjoy as good a view as any of those great people who would presently come out upon
the balconies of their marble palaces.
The bridge of the Rialto, which throws its white span across the centre of the canal, was
Carpaccio's favourite perch, for from here he could see the markets and the long row of
marble palaces on either side. From every window hung gay-coloured tapestry, Turkey
carpets, silken draperies, and delicate-tinted stuffs covered with Eastern embroideries.
The market was crowded with a throng of holiday-makers, a garden of bright colours and
from the balconies above richly dressed ladies looked down, themselves a pageant of
beauty, with their wonderful golden hair and gleaming jewels, while green and crimson
parrots, fastened by golden chains to the marble balustrades, screamed and flapped their
wings, and delighted Carpaccio's keen eyes with their vivid beauty.
Then the procession of boats swept up the great waterway, and the blaze of colour made
the boy hold his breath in sheer delight. The painted galleys, the rowers in their quaint
dresses-half one colour and half another--with jaunty feathered caps upon their floating
curls, the nobles and rulers in their crimson robes, the silken curtains of every hue trailing
their golden fringes in the cool green water, as the boats glided past, all made up a picture
which the boy never forgot.