Giovanni Bellini recounted by Federico Zeri

By Ioannis Tzortzakakis

Giovanni Bellini died in Venice on 26 November 1516. He comes from a family of painters, his father Jacopo Bellini, his brother Gentile Bellini and his brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna. Giorgione and Titian had been among his students, having influenced the next generation of Venetian painters, including Sebastiano del Piombo, Lorenzo Lotto, and Vittore Carpaccio, while Albrecht Dürer and Fra Bartolomeo admired his work.  

“He is very old, and still he is the best painter of them all”, Albrecht Dürer wrote in 1506 about Giovanni Bellini.

His work includes portraits, altarpieces, devotional and secular paintings, made the old tempera and later in the new oil method – brought to Venice by the Sicilian Antonello da Messina, according to Giorgio Vasari. Vasari also quoted, in the life of Andrea Mantegna, Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, Canto XII comprising Giovanni Bellini among the most illustrious painters of his time: Lionardo, Andrea Mantegna, Gian Bellino.

Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, about 1460, Tempera on wood, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

Fortitude, about 1470, Pen and brown ink, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Madonna and Child, late 1480s, Oil on wood, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Madonna of the Meadow, about 1500, Oil and egg on synthetic panel, transferred from wood, The National Gallery, London.

Doge Leonardo Loredan, 1501-2, Oil on poplar, The National Gallery, London.

The Infant Bacchus, about 1505/1510, Oil on panel transferred to panel, National Gallery, Washington, Samuel H. Kress Collection.

Further reading: Daniel Wallace Maze, “Giovanni Bellini: Birth, Parentage, and Independence.” Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 66, no. 3, 2013, pp. 783–823.

Oskar Bätschmann, Giovanni Bellini, Reaktion Books, 2008.

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