Venetian painters: Giovanni Bellini

Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516), the greatest painter of the early Renaissance in Venice, was born into a family of artists, both his father Jacopo, and his brother, Gentile, were well known artists and his sister married Andrea Mantegna, the important painter from Padua.

Bellini was the first Italian artist to adopt the Flemish technique of oil painting, which allowed the artist to produce rich tints and detailed shadings, particularly when representing natural landscape. According to the famous art historian Kenneth Clark he was one of the greatest landscape painters in history, and the inventor of the Italian landscape painting. He perceives the holiness in all the things, even in the smallest details; which is why he studied obsessively the clouds, the sky or the mist in the air. He deeply influenced great painters of the high renaissance such as Giorgione, Titian and Durer who visited Venice on two different occasions.

The American artist Bill Viola says Bellini was the inventor of the zoom technique; the far distant backgrounds showing details of architecture or plants and flowers of specific species always painted with great poetic approach.

In the Accademia Gallery in Venice there are two paintings by Bellini of the same size and both executed in 1505; one shows the Virgin Mary with baby Christ and St.John the Baptist and the other one a much older Virgin Mary with the dead body of Christ. The background of both paintings is occupied by a large landscape; the first painting shows the brilliant light of sunrise , symbol of new life, the other one the warm light of sunset, symbol of the end of the day and the end of life. The representation of natural light is one of the most difficult things for a painter to do, especially for a landscape painter.

He was a very sincere and profound religious artist; the visitor can still find a great number of his works still “in situ”: the Frari, San Giovanni e Paolo and S.Zaccaria churches, etc. His very last great altarpiece dated 1515 when Bellini was over eighty years, is to be found in the small beautiful church of S. Giovanni Crisostomo, near the Rialto. The canvas shows three saints: Christopher, Jerome and Louis, bishop of Toulouse. They mean you can be a good Christian independently from your place in society; as a manual worker (St.Christopher), an intellectual (St.Jerome) or an aristocrat (St.Louis). This was a significant subject executed only a few years before the lutheran church Reformation.

Bellini in Venice, main works:
Museo Correr – early works, Crucifixion, Transfiguration, Dead Christ Supported by Two Angels
Querini Stampalia Foundation – Presentation at the Temple
Ducal palace – The Lamentation over the Body of Christ (Pietà)
Dominican San Giovanni e Paolo church – Saint Vicente Ferrer Poliptych (in situ)
Franciscan Frari church – Frari Triptych (in situ)
Murano, san Pietro martire church– Doge Barbarigo votive painting
Church of San Zaccaria – San Zaccaria altarpiece (in situ)
Church of San Giovanni Crisostomo – The saints Cristopher, Gerome and Louis of Tolouse (in situ)

Accademia Painting gallery – several paintings are on display such as the ones with the subject of Madonna and child, Madonna with saints and the San Giobbe altarpiece, his largest in Venice.

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