Caravaggio and the Painters of the North
From 21 June to 18 September 2016
Giovanni Bellini trained in Venice in the workshop of his father Jacopo, together with his brother Gentile. He is documented as assisting his father in the 1460s. His first important work as an independent painter was the Saint Vincent Ferrer Polyptych for the church of San Giovanni e Paolo. In the 1470s he undertook numerous commissions for public and private devotion and in 1479 he was entrusted with a cycle of historical paintings that were subsequently destroyed in the fire of 1577. In the 1570s documents state that he travelled to the Marches to paint a Coronation of the Virgin (Museo Civico, Pesaro). Bellini was a member of various confraternities such as the Scuola Grande di San Marco and that of San Cristoforo dei Mercanti. He produced religious compositions and portraits while his later oeuvre includes mythological paintings. Among his earliest works of between 1460 and 1470 are The Agony in the Garden (National Gallery, London), a painting that reveals the marked influence of his brother-in-law Mantegna, and The Pietà (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan). Dating from his mature period between 1470 and 1500 are the San Giobbe Altarpiece (Museo Civico, Pesaro), the Madonna degli Alberetti (Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice), the Frari Triptych in the Venetian church of Santa Maria dei Frari and the Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan (National Gallery, London). Among his last works, executed between 1500 and his death, are the San Zaccaria Altarpiece in the church of that name in Venice and The Feast of the Gods (National Gallery of Art, Washington). Giovanni Bellini introduced new iconographic motifs and subjects into Venetian painting as well as a series of innovations that modified the way of depicting traditional themes. His manner of painting, based on colour and light, was assimilated and disseminated by the following generation of artists. In addition, he was an outstanding draughtsman and some of his drawings have been considered preparatory sketches for his most celebrated paintings (despite doubts regarding their attribution), including Portrait of a Man (Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford). Giovanni Bellini had a long life and according to Vasari died at the age of 90. In addition to his artistic genius he was known for his pleasant nature.