The Virgin's bedchamber, where we are shown it, as, for instance, in Crivelli's picture in the National Gallery, is quite as well appointed in the way of beautiful bedding, carving, and so forth, as the chamber of the lady of John Arnolfini of Lucca in Van Eyck's portrait.
John in particular reveals in the beauty of feature and expression Crivelli's power to portray subtleties and refinements of character without sacrificing his sumptuous taste for accessories and ornament. The Saint, wearing his traditional sheep skin and bearing his cross and scroll, bends his head in meditation.
The various parts of the altarpiece were enclosed in a splendid and ornate frame while in the possession of Prince Demidoff in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the whole is a magnificent monument to Crivelli's art. The introduction of sham jewels, such as those set in the Virgin's crown and in the rings and medallions worn by Peter, fails to destroy the dignity of the execution.
You could see the skeleton behind the man, and almost the ghost behind the skeleton. He matched Crivelli's dead Christus. His sunken eye-pits were of morbid hue, and the light in his eyes had waned. The angular hollows and lines of his aged ancestors had succeeded to their reign in his face twenty years before their time. "I was ill over there, you know," he said. "I am all right now."
Although all the outlines are severely defined with the sharpness of a Schiavone, the interior modeling is sensitive and delicate and in the case of the Virgin, tender and softly varied, so that the curve of the throat and chin seem almost to ripple with the breathing, the young chest swells in lovely gradation of form under the close bodice, and the whole figure has a graciousness of contour, a slim roundness and elasticity by which it takes its place among Crivelli's many realizations of his ideal type as at least one of the most lovable if not the most characteristic and personal.
Sebastian, a late signed picture of Crivelli's declining talent, with a predella below the chief panel in which appear St. Catherine, St. Jerome in the Wilderness, the Nativity, the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian again, and St. George and the Dragon. The little compartment containing the scene of the Nativity is quite by itself among Crivelli's works for intimate and homely charm.
A beautiful building with a domed roof is seen at the right. At the top of the picture across the cloud-strewn sky is a festoon of fruits, Crivelli's characteristic decoration.
The glory of her fate is symbolized by the broad golden ray falling from the heavens upon her meekly bowed head. Her face is pale with the dim pallor that commonly rests upon Crivelli's flesh tones, and her clasped hands have the exaggerated length of finger and also the look of extraordinary pliability which he invariably gives.
How scientific prigs shook with laughter at the notion of a flying dragon! till one day geology revealed to them, in the Pterodactylus, that a real flying dragon, on the model of Carlo Crivelli's in Mrs. But such is the way of this wise world! And why should we not find the flying serpent too?
The simplicity of the surroundings and the natural attitudes of the people have an almost Dutch character, borne out by the meticulous care for detail in the execution united to an effect of chiaro-oscuro very rare in early Italian art and hardly to be expected in a painter of Crivelli's Paduan tendencies. The St. George is more characteristic, with an immense energy in its lines.