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Giovanni Bellini, Madonna and Child With Saint Jerome

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Bellini, illustrious family of Venetian painters of the Renaissance. Jacopo Bellini (yä'kôpô), c.1400–1470, was a pupil of Gentile da Fabriano. He worked in Padua, Verona, Ferrara, and Venice. Many of his greatest paintings, including the enormous Crucifixion for the Cathedral of Verona, have disappeared. Several of his Madonnas (Uffizi; Louvre; Academy, Venice) are still extant. Jacopo's sketches in two notebooks (Louvre and British Mus.) are his most important legacy. They reveal a variety of interests, including problems of perspective, landscapes, and antiquity.

His son Gentile Bellini (jântç'lâ), 1429–1507, studied with him and with Mantegna, working in Padua and then in Venice. He excelled in portraiture and in depicting ceremonial processions. His paintings, such as The Procession in the Piazza of San Marco and The Miracle of the True Cross (both: Academy, Venice), are valued for their faithful representation of contemporary Venetian life. In 1479 Gentile was sent by the state to the court of Muhammad II in Constantinople. Subsequently a Middle Eastern flavor appeared in several of his paintings, including the portrait of Muhammad II (National Gall., London); the portrait of a Turkish artist (Gardner Mus., Boston); and St. Mark Preaching at Alexandria (Brera, Milan).

The last was completed by his brother, Giovanni Bellini (jôvän'nç), c.1430–1516, who was first active in Padua where he worked with his father and brother. Also influenced by Mantegna, who became his brother-in-law in 1454, Giovanni painted the Agony in the Garden (National Gall., London), the Crucifixion (Correo Mus., Venice), and several Madonnas (Philadelphia Mus. and Metropolitan Mus.). Whereas Mantegna and Jacopo and Gentile Bellini were known chiefly as admirable draftsmen, Giovanni developed another style. His sumptuous coloring and fluent, atmospheric landscapes had a great effect upon Venetian painting, especially upon his pupils Giorgione and Titian. He created several imposing altarpieces; best known are those of the Frari and San Zaccaria in Venice and the St. Job (now in the Academy, Venice). Other examples of his art are several fine portraits such as the Doge Loredano (National Gall., London). He painted St. Francis in the Desert (Frick Coll., New York City) and St. Jerome (National Gall. of Art, Washington, D.C.), as well as some allegorical fantasies such as the Restello series (Academy, Venice). He also created mythological scenes, including The Myth of Orpheus and The Feast of the Gods (both: National Gall. of Art, Washington, D.C.). The zestful Feast, one of his last pictures, was painted in 1514 for Isabella d'Este, with finishing touches added by Titian.

Used with permission. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright © 2001 Columbia University Press