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

Giovanni Bellini V: Bellini and the Art of Drawing

Fondazione Cini - Sala degli Arazzi
Saturday, 10 April 2010, 2:00–3:30pm

Organizer: Carolyn C. Wilson, independent scholar

Chair: Paul Hills, The Courtauld Institute of Art


Colin Eisler, New York University
"The Iris Page in the Bellini Paris Notebook: Who Painted it and Why? Reasons for the Iris’s Presence in Works North and South of the Alps, 1430–1530"

The flower’s prominent role in the Sorrows of the Virgin proved a stimulus for pictorial concern with the iris due to the increasing popularity of the Stabat Mater. Botanical studies of the later fourteenth and earlier fifteenth centuries, along with special gardens in the Veneto, contributed to a new awareness of floral imagery in that region. Interrelationships between painting, botanical gardens, and herbal illustration proved particularly important toward the development of a new naturalism in art. Iris’s pharmaceutical properties were well known through Pliny’s Natural History. The same writer’s commentaries on Greek artists, widely printed and popular in the Veneto, included a characterization of the Theban painter Aristides that may prove key to the genesis of Bellini’s Iris image, revealing a hitherto unknown humanistic agenda for the identification between the Venetian and the Greek artist.

Karolina Zgraja, Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstegeschichte
"Giovanni Bellini’s Drawings: A Critical Reassessment in the Light of Underdrawings"

The study of Bellini’s drawings on paper is problematic. Although no document attests to his activity in this area and no attributed drawing can be securely identified as a preparatory study for a known painting, over one hundred heterogeneous drawings have been assigned, often tentatively or controversially, to him. This paper will examine a selection of drawings that I accept as autograph works and that represent a chronological range and variety of techniques. Following a critical review of their respective attribution histories and observations on technique and style with hypotheses regarding function, these drawings will be compared with a variety of Bellini’s underdrawings that have been revealed through infra-red reflectography conducted during the past two decades. Assessment will follow of the extent to which comparison of underdrawings with drawings on paper provides new guidelines for attribution and understanding of the works on paper that have been ascribed to the master.

Elizabeth Carroll Consavari, Colgate University Venice Program
"In the Shadow of Bellini: Defining Bartolomeo Montagna and Artistic Identity in Early Sixteenth-Century Vicenza"

Bartolomeo Montagna (1459–1523) was one of the most productive painters of his day. However, we lack sufficient information critical to our understanding of Giovanni Bellini’s widespread influence in the terraferma. Painters from the Venetian terraferma often achieved a sense of volume through the altering of stroke gradation. By contrast, Montagna created volume in the manner of Giovanni Bellini. Scholars identify Montagna as the caposcuola of Vicenza; however, his training is not easily traced to Vicenza.This paper addresses the idea that Montagna’s mixed artistic influences outside of Vicenza are the most critical sources providing the best understanding of Montagna’s unique mescolanza of pictorial approaches. I explore not only the influence of Bellini in the case of Montagna’s most direct contact with him in Venice, but also discover his distinctiveness by viewing him in light of the historical identities of Venice and Vicenza, and not as the casualty of previous methodology.

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