Vittore Carpaccio (1465-1525/26), The Visitation

Ca' d'Oro, Venice, Italy

The birds and animals to the left and right of Mary and Elizabeth seem to have symbolic functions, but I am not sure what they are. The peacock and rabbit on the left symbolize respectively immortality and saintliness. On the right, the hare is making a quick exit from the frame, apparently fleeing from the red bird. In some bestiaries the hare derives its Latin name from its speed (lepus supposedly from levipes, "light-footed"). It represents timorousness and inconstancy. If the bird represents any actual species native to Italy, it ought to be either the common rosefinch or the red kite. Bestiaries say the kite is a rapacious carrion eater.

View this image in full resolution.
Read more about images of The Visitation.

Photographed at the Ca' d'Oro by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.