2010 Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Venice
IAS-Sponsored Session

Giovanni Bellini IV: Bellini’s Christian Pictures, an Art “More Human and More Divine” II

Fondazione Cini - Sala degli Arazzi
Saturday, 10 April 2010, 11:00am–12:30pm

Organizer: Carolyn C. Wilson, independent scholar

Chair: Diane Cole Ahl, Lafayette College


Catarina Schmidt Arcangeli, Kunsthistorisches Institut Florenz, Max Planck Institut
"Bellini’s Private Devotional Images: A Boom around 1500"

This paper newly focuses on the economic aspects of the “mass production” of devotional images for private use that issued from Bellini’s workshop, the leading “manufacturer,” from ca. 1500 forward and that must surely have generated a significant source of income. Bellini’s public commissions throughout the city had become conveyers of a style expressing a novel concept of devotion; they led to an increasing demand from Venetian citizens for small-sized “imitations.” Socioeconomic diversity among the clientele for these works may explain variety in type and quality among Bellini’s extant devotional images. Despite the difficulties inherent in assessing the function and intent of works now most often removed from their original contexts, sufficient sources survive to shed light on questions of manufacturing, style, and patronage.

Bernard Aikema, Università degli Studi di Verona
"Giovanni Bellini: uno sguardo al particolare"

Focusing on seemingly insignificant or half-hidden details, this paper will examine Bellini’s landscape iconography with reference to problems of meaning, looking habits, and the discourse on painting. Relations with the treatment of landscape in contemporary painting in Northern Europe will be explored.

Tamara Durn, Case Western Reserve University
"Reconsidering Giovanni Bellini’s Washington Saint Jerome Reading"

The Washington Jerome is distinctive among Bellini’s other depictions of the saint for the prominent water-filled cut-rock structure in the left foreground. This conspicuous feature may indeed be the key to this work’s meaning. This paper proposes that Bellini’s inspiration derives from a passage in Jacobus de Voragine’s Golden Legend (“Jerome built his tomb at the mouth of the cave where our Lord had lain and was buried there”) and that all elements of the painting may be understood in relation to it. The foreground cut-rock structure may be identified as the tomb Jerome built for himself, and the cave behind as the site of Christ’s birth. Bellini orchestrates an intricate symbolic program to manifest that, as Christ, Jerome, and the viewer himself can be sanctified through a meditation on its meaning.

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