23/02/14 Aggiornato il:

Giovanni Bellini ~ High Renaissance painter




Italian painter Giovanni Bellini [1430-1516)] was the founder of the Venetian school of painting and raised Venice to a center of Renaissance art that rivaled Florence and Rome. He brought to painting a new degree of realism, a new wealth of subject matter, and a new sensuousness in form and color.
Perhaps more than any other, Giovanni Bellini [Giambellino] was an artist who passed through different periods and cultural revolutions. He, before Leonardo, was the great inventor of the representation of sentiment and nature, painting works of extraordinary poetry, landscapes that brought together everything that had been seen until then in Italy and Europe, with the human figure totally immersed in the surrounding space. These moving, deeply felt scenes are also intimately Venetian - in the softness of the light, in the sober realism of the men and women, in the taste for details of vegetation described in a single botanic identity.

Masterpieces, obtained by transforming every technical element: Giambellino took his first steps in tempera and went on to develop such a sophisticated use of oil that he could knead the forms of the onlookers, although volumetrically solid, with architectural structures and backdrops in the first Italian example of a "modern" use of the technique imported from Flanders. Towards the end of his career he began working the painted surface with his fingers, creating that unusual chromatic softness which would pave the way for Giorgione and Tiziano.
A big retrospective on Giovanni Bellini has never been attempted, just as for Antonello da Messina, because it is considered such a difficult undertaking. His only solo exhibition was curated by Rodolfo Pallucchini in 1949. It was held in Venice and gathered together about fifty works, mostly from collections in Veneto or Italy, giving an image of the painter that needs to be completely reviewed to take into account the findings of more recent studies.



The Bellini family of painters was one of the most influential names in the Italian Renaissance. Jacopo Bellini (1396-1470), Giovanni’s father, was a leading painter at the start of the Renaissance. Jacopo’s two sons, Giovanni and Gentile (1429-1507), carried on this immense influence, with Giovanni carrying great importance in the Venetian style of painting. Jacopo Bellini was also the teacher of another highly influential Renaissance artist, Andrea Mantegna, (1431-1506), who was married into the Bellini family as a brother-in-law of Giovanni.
Where his father solidified the style seen in the Early Renaissance, Giovanni evolved it in his use of atmospheric colors, which came to define the Venetian School. This was an important influence on two of his pupils, the masters, Giorgione (1477-1510) and Titian (1485-1576).

The breadth of influence these two master Venetian painters had on European art can be traced back to Bellini. His work is documented as early as the 1450s, where he painted in the tempera. His works during this early period include notable pieces such as Dead Christ Supported by Two Angels and two different pieces both titled, Dead Christ Supported by the Madonna and Saint John, among others. As Mantegna studied in Jacopo Bellini’s studio, Giovanni absorbed some of his unique style. One of his most cherished works under the influence of Mantegna was the Agony in the Garden, from 1459.

Giovanni Bellini first began painting in Oil when the Sicilian painter Antonello da Messina (1430-1479), came to see the work of Bellini. It is said that Messina had a crucial role in introducing Oil painting to the Venetians. With this Bellini’s religious works took on a new life, closer to the vivid, but flowing, colors that became so distinct of the Venetians. Often collaborating with his brother Gentile, Giovanni executed some of his best work in place of Gentile for a commission at the Palazzo Ducale di Venezia, or Doge’s Palace in Venice. Sadly, a great deal of work here was lost to fire in 1577.

After his work in Doge’s Palace, Bellini went on to paint works that would define a stylistic transition into the High Renaissance. This included his Barbarigo Altarpiece, known as Madonna with Doge Agostino Barbarigo in the Chiesa di San Zaccaria (Church of Saint Zacharias) in Venice. Bellini executed many works throughout Venice, mostly Religious in subject matter, but also portraits. One of his Portraits of a Young Man is now in the Uffizi Gallery, where there is also his piece, Lamentation, attributed under the name Giambellino. There is also his beautifully landscaped piece, Allegory, in the Uffizi. Bellini was well known for bringing attention to detail in is landscape backgrounds, which would also influence this innovation in the Venetian School.
In his later work Bellini began to paint mythological subjects as well, including his last unfinished piece, The Feast of the Gods, which Titian completed. The work was commissioned by the Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso I d’Este (1476-1534), for the Castello Estense (Castle of Estense or Este Castle).














































































Giovanni Bellini [Giambellino] è l'artista che più di ogni altro ha attraversato i tempi e le rivoluzioni culturali: è lui, prima di Leonardo, il grande inventore della rappresentazione dei sentimenti e della natura, offrendoci opere di straordinaria poesia in paesaggi che riassumono tutto ciò che fino allora si era visto in Italia e in Europa, con la figura umana immersa totalmente nello spazio circostante in commoventi, sentite rappresentazioni così intimamente veneziane nella morbidezza della luce, nel realismo sobrio degli uomini e delle donne, nel gusto per i particolari vegetali colti in singola identità botanica. Capolavori ottenuti trasformando ogni elemento tecnico: Giambellino muove i primi passi pittorici usando la tempera e poi arriverà a un utilizzo così sapiente dell'olio da impastare le forme degli astanti, seppur volumetricamente solide, con architetture e sfondi, offrendo il primo esempio italiano di uso "moderno" della tecnica importata dalle Fiandre. Giungendo alla fine della carriera a lavorare la superficie pittorica con le dita, creando quelle inusitate morbidezze cromatiche che apriranno la via a Giorgione e Tiziano.
Una grande retrospettiva su Giovanni Bellini è, così come per Antonello da Messina, operazione mai tentata perché ritenuta di difficilissima strutturazione: la sola mostra monografica, curata da Rodolfo Pallucchini nel 1949, fu fatta a Venezia e radunò una cinquantina di opere, prevalentemente stanziate in Veneto o in Italia, offrendo un'immagine del pittore che oggi, dando conto della nuova stagione degli studi, è completamente da rivedere.
Figlio di Jacopo e fratello di Gentile, è uno dei massimi pittori del Rinascimento. Si forma nella bottega paterna, ma guarda soprattutto all'opera del cognato Andrea Mantegna. I dipinti anteriori al 1460 (una Trasfigurazione e una Crocifissione al Museo Correr di Venezia, la Preghiera nell'orto alla National Gallery di Londra) sono caratterizzati dall'incisività del disegno e del tratto grafico nei contorni, ma già rivelano un'inclinazione per rappresentazioni intime e quasi dolenti delle figure, immerse in vasti paesaggi silenziosi. Il decennio successivo vede lo smorzarsi delle linee, che lasciano il posto a una ricerca della luce: ricchezza di toni e passaggi cromatici contraddistinguono la Pietà (Pinacoteca di Brera, Milano), il Cristo benedicente (Louvre, Parigi) e il Polittico di San Vincenzo Ferreri (Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venezia).
E' l'Incoronazione della Vergine (Pala di Pesaro, Musei Civici, Pesaro), databile al 1475, a segnare il raggiungimento della piena maturità e indipendenza artistica del Giambellino. Egli mostra in questo dipinto di conoscere e comprendere l'opera di Piero della Francesca e dei contemporanei fiamminghi. Tali esperienze, come anche quella di Antonello da Messina, confluiscono nell'arte del maestro, fuse in una forte coerenza stilistica. Ne è prova la Trasfigurazione del 1485 (Museo di Capodimonte, Napoli), opera centrale della maturità del pittore veneziano. Capo di una fiorente bottega e pittore ufficiale della signoria dal 1483, Bellini rimarrà attento anche al lavoro della nuova generazione di giovani artisti cresciuti attorno a lui nei primi anni del Cinquecento, da Giorgione a Tiziano. Tra le opere di questo periodo si ricordano il Trittico dei Frari (Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venezia) e la Pala di San Zaccaria (Chiesa di San Zaccaria, Venezia), avviate verso una monumentalità di stampo cinquecentesco.