Gentile BelliniSon of the painter Jacopo Bellini and brother of Giovanni. His date of birth is sometimes put at 1429 (his mother, Anna Rinversi, made a will that year when pregnant with her first child), but this may be too early. According to Vasari, he was named after Gentile da Fabriano, his father’s master. His early career is obscure, but he was sufficiently famous by 1469 to be knighted by the Emperor Frederick III, who was visiting Venice that year for the carnival. In 1474 the Venetian Senate voted to accept his offer to refurbish the decorations of the Sala del Gran Consiglio in the Doge’s Palace. His cycle of history pictures, painted over many years with Giovanni Bellini among others, was totally destroyed by fire in 1577, as was his series of official portraits of the Doges of Venice.
On 1 August 1479, after the signing of a peace treaty with the Turks, the Venetian Senate received a request from the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II for a ‘good painter who knows how to make portraits’. Gentile Bellini was chosen for the task, and left for Constantinople on 3 September, taking two assistants. He stayed about a year, producing 'a great many marvellous paintings of [Mehmet] and almost countless other subjects'. The Sultan rewarded him with another knighthood and a gold chain weighing 250 crowns. Almost all the paintings he did in Constantinople are lost. His portrait medal of the Sultan and some drawings survive.
Though presumably trained by his father, his earliest pictures, like his brother Giovanni’s, show evidence of Mantegna’s influence. His style remained linear and rather dry. His major surviving works are large narrative canvases painted for the scuole (charitable lay confraternities) of Venice, which are full of portraits and picturesque views of the city. Most of his independent portraits are profiles. He died on 23 February 1507 (at the age of ‘nearly eighty’ according to Vasari) and was buried in the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo.
Bergamo. Accademia Carrara.
Portrait of a Man. Wood, 20 x 14.
The man, dressed in a red tunic and black headscarf, is shown in profile against a light blue background. The attribution, made by Berenson (1936 and 1957 Lists), has sometimes been doubted, but was accepted by Jürg Meyer zur Capellen in his 1985 German monograph on Gentile Bellini. From the collection of Conte Giacomo Carrara, bequeathed to the city of Bergamo in 1796.
*Madonna and Donors. Wood, 75 x 46.
The Child holds a pomegranate and blesses the two donors, a nobleman and lady, who are portrayed bust-length in profile. The inscription ('OPUS GENTILE BELLINUS") on the bottom of the (nineteenth-century?) frame may be a copy of an original signature. Universally accepted as a very early work, dating from the 1450s or early 1460s. Acquired by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1821 with the enormous collection of the English merchant-diplomat Edward Solly.
Self-Portrait(?). Paper, 23 x 19.
This fine charcoal portrait shows a middle-aged Venetian citizen, bust-length and three-quarter view, wearing a round cap (beretta) and with a cloth or velvet sash (stola) draped over his right shoulder. The identification of the man portrayed as Gentile Bellini was first proposed in 1898 by the German art historian Georg Gronau, who observed a resemblance with the portrait medallion of Gentile cast by the Venetian stonecutter and medalist Vettor di Antonio Gambello (called Camelio). The same man seems to be portrayed among the bystanders in Gentile's huge 1496 canvas of the Procession in the Piazza San Marco (Accademia, Venice). (He appears to the left of the processional canopy.) The attribution of the drawing has oscillated between Gentile (as a self-portrait) and Giovanni Bellini (as a portrait of his brother). It has been carefully pricked for transfer, suggesting it was used as a cartoon for a painted portrait. It was one of almost 3,500 sheets of drawings acquired by the museum in 1902 with the collection of the Berlin silk merchant Adolf von Berkerath.
Boston. Gardner Museum.
*A Turkish Scribe. Pen and gouache on parchment, 18 x 14.
The vertical Arabic inscription has been translated as: ‘work of Ibn Muezzin who was a famous painter among the Franks’. It has been suggested that ‘Ibn Muezzin’ (‘son of the caller-to-prayer’) may be a mistranslation of the name Bellini. Gentile could have made the pen drawing in 1479-80 at the Turkish court, and worked it up in watercolour for the Sultan. An alternative attribution was made in 1980 (by Maria Andaloro and Julian Raby) to the shadowy Costanzo da Ferrara (or di Moysis) on the grounds that ‘Muezzin’ could be a garbled rendering of ‘Moysis’, Costanzo’s father’s name. Costanzo made two medals of Mehmet, but no paintings by him are known. The attribution to Gentile Bellini was upheld by Meyer zur Capellen (in his 1985 German monograph on the artist) and by Caroline Campbell and David Chong (in the catalogue of the 2006 exhibition Bellini and the East at Boston and London); but the issue has not been settled. The sheet came from an album of European engravings and Oriental paintings compiled in Persia in 1544-45 for Bahram Mirza (a son of the Shah). It was acquired in Istanbul in about 1905 by Frederick Martin (who attributed it to Gentile Bellini in an article in the Burlington Magazine). Purchased from Martin by Mrs Gardner in 1907 for £1,500 through the agency of the society portraitist Anders Zorn.
Boston. Museum of Fine Arts.
Portrait of Doge (Pasquale Malipiero?). Wood, 53 x 43.
The Doge is shown bust-length and in profile, wearing the cape and horned cap of his ceremonial dress. The design on the cape is almost completely effaced and gold leaf has disappeared from the cap, but the profile and the modelling of the face appear to be in good condition. The Doge has been tentatively identified as Pasquale Malipiero, whose portrait appears on a bronze medal cast by Pietro da Fano and on the tomb monument sculpted by Pietro Lombardo in Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Malipiero was made doge in 1457 and died in 1462. The portrait is unlikely to have been painted from life; it might have been based on the medal or on an earlier portrait. Probably acquired in Paris in the 1860s or 1870s by Thomas Buckminister Curtis of Boston. His daughter-on-law donated it in 1936 to the Morgan Memorial Co-operative, which sold it the same year to the museum for $20,000.
Budapest. Museum of Fine Arts.
*Portrait of Caterina Cornaro. Wood, 63 x 49.
The Latin inscription, written in gold letters on the red tablet in the upper left corner, states: ‘I am of the family of the Corneli and bear the name of the Virgin whom Sinai buries [ie. St Catherine of Alexandria]. The Venetian Senate calls me daughter and I have been the servant of the thrones of the nine kingdoms of Cyprus. You see how great I am, but the hand of Gentile Bellini is greater, that portrays me on such a small panel.’ It is uncertain whether the inscription is original. (X-rays suggest it may have been painted over an earlier inscription.)
Caterina Cornaro (1454-1510) ruled Cyprus from 1474, when her husband James II of Lusignan died, until 1489, when she was forced to concede the kingdom to Venice. She was given in compensation the little township of Asolo (near Treviso), where she lived for the next twenty years. In Gentile’s portrait she is dressed regally, with a jewelled coronet over a richly embroidered cap, transparent veils over her face and a gown of cloth of gold edged with rubies and pearls. However, the portrait suggests that her reputation as a great beauty was inflated. It could conceivably be the one of Caterina mentioned by Vasari, which he ascribes to Jacopo Bellini, or the one mentioned by Ridolfi, which he ascribes to Giovanni Bellini. The portrait was probably painted around 1500. (Gentile Bellini's Miracle of the True Cross at the Bridge of San Lorenzo (Accademia) is dated 1500 and shows Caterina in the same sumptuous costume as the portrait.)
The picture was one of many artworks collected by the Hungarian cleric and poet János László Pyrker when he was Patriarch of Venice in 1821-26 and donated to the Budapest museum in 1836. It was restored at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, for an exhibition, The Renaissance Portrait, held there in 2011-12. Discoloured repaint was removed and splits in the panel (which had been drastically thinned in the late nineteenth century) were treated.
Portrait of a Man. Wood, 12 x 9.
The man, dressed as a prelate, is shown in profile against a bright blue background. The tiny panel came to the museum in 1845 from the collection of a Signore Dei. The attribution to Gentile Bellini was made in 1925 by Giuseppe Fiocco in the Italian journal Dedalo. It appears to have been rather little discussed, but was accepted by Meyer zur Capellen in his 1985 monograph on the artist.
London. National Gallery.
Virgin and Child Enthroned. Wood, 122 x 83.
The Virgin is represented as Queen of Heaven, wearing a crown and a robe of red and gold brocade and seated on a huge throne of inlaid marble. The carpet covering the step of the throne is an Islamic prayer mat from Anatolia. The Child, standing on the Virgin's left knee, holds a pomegranate, symbol of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. Much restored: the faces in particular preserve little of their original character. The use of EQVITIS in the signature indicates a date after 1469 when Gentile was knighted. Nevertheless, the picture might be a comparatively early work (1470s or early 1480s). It has been suggested that it was the central panel of a polyptych mentioned by early writers as painted by Gentile for the Mercer’s Guild in Venice, but there is no definite evidence for this. It was acquired in Venice by Sir Charles Eastlake around 1860 and bought from his widow in 1894 by Ludwig Mond, who bequeathed his collection to the National Gallery in 1924.
*Cardinal Bessarion with His Reliquary. Wood, 102 x 37.
The panel formed the door of a reliquary tabernacle. (There were keyholes, now filled in, on the right.) Cardinal Johannes Bessarion gave the reliquary, which held two fragments of the True Cross, to the Scuola della Carità in Venice in 1472. He is shown in profile (with a conspicuously bulbous nose) praying before the reliquary, while two white-robed members of the Scuola stand on the right. The tabernacle was dismantled in 1744, when a new Baroque altar was commissioned for the reliquary. By 1821 the panel was in the collection of Emperor Francis I of Austria. During the Second War World, it was seized by the Nazis with the collection of Serena Lederer of Vienna. In 1950 it was given by Erich Lederer, Serena's son, to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, but it was returned to his heirs and sold at Christie’s in 2001. Acquired by the National Gallery in 2002. The reliquary remains in the Scuola’s meeting room (now incorporated into the Accademia).
*Sultan Mehmet II. Canvas (possibly transferred from panel), 70 x 52.
Mehmet II (1432-81) conquered Constantinople in 1453 and made it the capital of the Ottoman Empire. He is shown, almost in profile, under an illusionistic classical arch and behind a parapet covered with a bejewelled cloth. The three gold crowns on either side may refer to his three realms of Greece, Trebizond and Asia. Though often reproduced in art and history books, the portrait is usually consigned to the reserve galleries because of its poor condition. It is almost entirely repainted, and the inscription (bottom left corner) giving the names of Gentile Bellini and Mehmet is not original. An older inscription (bottom right corner) gives the date 25 November 1480. This date – if correct – suggests that the portrait was painted during Gentile’s diplomatic mission to Constantinople in 1479-80. After Mehmet’s death in 1481, all Gentile Bellini’s Turkish paintings were reportedly sold in the bazaar, where they were acquired by Venetians. The portrait was picked up in Venice by Henry Layard in 1865 from a man whose father, an English contractor, had obtained it from the Venturi family to meet a debt. He had it ‘restored’ by Giuseppe Molteni, and exhibited it in his palazzo (Ca’ Capello) on the Grand Canal. After Lady Layard’s death in 1912, his pictures became the property of the British Government. The portrait, which had been relegated for decades to the reserve collection in the basement galleries, was placed on loan with the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2009.
A small variant of the National Gallery portrait (in which the head is very similar but Mehmet is glancing over his left shoulder) was included in the exhibition Venice and the Islamic World held in Paris and New York in 2006-7. It was subsequently sold at Sotheby's in October 2007 as the work of a 'follower of Gentile Bellini'.
A double portrait, sold at Sotheby's in July 2015 with an attribution to Gentile Bellini's workshop, shows Mehmet very much as in the National Gallery picture. He faces a young turbaned man (identified by an old inscription as his son).
Portrait of a Man (Giovanni Bellini?). Canvas, 69 x 59.
The elaborate brass instrument held in the left hand is assumed to be a pair of compasses or dividers, identifying the sitter as a mathematician, architect or artist. Morelli (1885) suggested that he might be Gerolamo Malatini, who taught perspective to Gentile and Giovanni Bellini. Cecil Gould (1969) suggested, on the grounds of a resemblance to a profile drawing at Chantilly by Vittore Belliniano, that he might be Giovanni Bellini. The picture, which is very worn and restored, is first recorded, as a portrait of an architect by Gentile Bellini, in Conte Lechi’s collection at Brescia. It was purchased by the National Gallery from Jean Paul Richter, the German connoisseur, in 1886. The attribution has often been doubted (eg. by Meyer zur Capellen in his 1985 monograph), but has been retained by the gallery.
Doge Niccolò Marcello. Wood, 62 x 45.
The sitter’s name and the date 1474 are given in an (eighteenth-century?) inscription on the back. Niccolò Marcello was Doge in 1473-74. Catalogued for many years as a school picture; but pentimenti (in particular, the nose has been increased in size) suggest that it might conceivably be an original portrait from life rather than a copy. Bequeathed with the Layard collection in 1916. There is a similar profile representation of the Doge, painted by Titian some seventy years later, in the Vatican Gallery.
London. British Museum.
Turkish Janissary; Turkish Woman. Paper, each, 21 x 18.
The seated man is identified as a Janissary – a member of the Ottoman Sultan's elite guard – by his distinctive tall hat (bork). The seated woman's tall conical headdress is like the tantour worn by Druze. She holds an unidentified disc-like object. The colour annotations are in Venetian dialect. It seems unlikely that the two beautifully drawn and highly finished studies were made directly from life, and they were probably worked up from previous sketches. Along with the famous coloured drawing on vellum of a Turkish scribe, now in the Gardner Museum at Boston, the two drawings are usually regarded as studies made by Gentile Bellini during his time at Mehmet II's court at Constantinople in 1479-81. The attribution is by no means certain, however, as there are no similar, highly finished drawings definitely by Gentile Bellini with which comparisons can be made. Some critics believe the drawings to be copies after Bellini. An attribution has also been made to Costanzo da Ferrara, a painter and medalist active mainly in Naples, who was probably in Constantinople in the late 1470s, producing two portrait medals of Mehmet II.
Portrait Medal of Mehmet II. Bronze, 9.5 in dia.
The obverse of the medal shows a bust of Mehmet in profile, while the reverse shows the three crowns of his empire (Constantinople, Iconium and Trebizond) and bears Gentile Bellini's signature. Although Bellini's name alone appears on the medal, it is likely that he was only responsible for the design and that the casting was done by the sculptor Bartolomeo Bellano, a Paduan student of Donatello, who accompanied the painter to Constantinople in 1479-80. There are some fifteen surviving examples of the medal. Other museums with one include the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), the Ashmolean (Oxford), the Museo Correr and Ca d'Oro (Venice) and the National Gallery of Art (Washington).
Madrid. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
Annunciation. Wood, 133 x 124.
The Virgin receives the news in a splendid Renaissance portico. The Corinthian columns of speckled granite are encircled by bands of acanthus leaves and the bronze or gilded capitals are decorated with cranes and human heads. The Angel kneels outside in a narrow street that leads to an arcaded square. On the cartellino at the bottom of the picture, the word OPUS is well preserved but the artist’s name has disappeared (or was never added). The picture came from a private collection in London, where it was ascribed at first to the Veronese painter Domenico Morone. An attribution to Gentile Bellini, as an early work, seems to have been first suggested (orally) in 1929 by Roberto Longhi, and has been adopted by the Thyssen-Bornesmisza collection ever since it acquired the picture in 1937. Other attributions have been made: Philip Hendy lent towards Giovanni Bellini at one time, Berenson (1957 Lists) proposed Jacopo da Montagnana (a minor Paduan follower of Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini) and Heinemann (1977) suggested Lazzaro Bastiani.
*St Mark Preaching in Alexandria. Canvas, 347 x 770.
The tradition that St Mark the Evangelist preached at Alexandria and founded the Church there is first recorded by Eusebius Pamphilus in the fourth century. The domed building in the background, while resembling the Basilica of St Mark’s, is probably intended to be the Serapeum (Temple of Serapis) at Alexandria, while the tops of the Pharos Lighthouse and the Column of Diocletian ('Pompey's Pillar') are perhaps to be identified against the skyline. The exotic costumes, obelisk with pseudo-hieroglyphs, camels and giraffe attempt to evoke the Islamic Near East. This huge canvas was commissioned from Gentile Bellini in May 1504. The contract did not set a completion deadline, but stipulated that the final cost should not exceed 200 ducats. The picture was unfinished when Gentile died in 1507. He left his ‘beloved brother Giovanni’ his book of their father’s drawings on condition that he finish the work, a condition that Giovanni duly fulfilled. Gentile included a self-portrait among the group of Venetians in official togas in the left foreground; he is right at the front, wearing the gold chain presented to him by Mehmet II.
The painting appears to be largely by Gentile, who was responsible for the overall composition and most of the figures. Giovanni’s contribution seems to have been limited chiefly to finishing figures in the foreground and buildings at the sides. He reworked the figures of St Mark preaching and the scribe seated behind him, and added the foreground cube, which draws the eye towards the Evangelist. The figure of St Mark seems to have been derived from mosaic representations of the saint in the Basilica of St Mark’s. The picture originally hung in the albergo (meeting room) of the Scuola Grande di San Marco in Campo San Zanipolo at Venice, and was part of a cycle which also included St Mark baptising St Annianus by Giovanni Mansuetti (also in the Brera) and the Martyrdom of St Mark by Giovanni Bellini and his pupil Vittore Bellianiano (which is still in Venice). The St Mark Preaching was removed to the Brera in 1808 after Napoleon closed the Venetian scuole.
New York. Frick Collection.
Doge Giovanni Mocenigo. Wood, 65 x 48.
On the basis of an inscription (now painted over as false), the sitter was once thought to be Andrea Vendramin (Doge from 1476 to 1478). He has been convincingly identified as Giovanni Mocenigo (who succeeded Andrea Vendramin as Doge in 1478 and died in 1485) on the evidence of other known portraits of him (eg. those in the Correr Museum, Venice, on the frieze of Doges in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio of the Doge’s Palace, and on a medal). In the early nineteenth century, the picture was in the collection of William Beckford of Bath; it was sold in 1845 for 63 guineas to a J. L. Strothert (also of Bath), whose son sold it in 1926 to Langton Douglas, who sold it on to Frick the same year. Well preserved.
Rome. Pinacoteca Capitolina.
Portrait of a Man. Wood, 32 x 25.
The elderly man, dressed in a purple tunic and black headscarf, is shown in profile against a dark blue background. Among the pictures acquired by Pope Benedict XIV in 1750 from the Pio da Carpi family. An attribution to ‘Gentile Bellini or his workshop’ seems to have been suggested first by Crowe and Cavalcaselle in their History of Painting in North Italy (1871). Other suggestions (eg. Uccello, Pisanello and Jacopo Bellini) followed; but a number of more recent writers (including Meyer zur Capellen in his 1985 monograph) have supported the Gentile Bellini attribution.
San Francisco. Young Memorial Museum.
Doge Leonardo Loredan. Parchment on panel, 33 x 26.
This small formal profile portrait probably dates from about 1501, when Loredan was elected Doge at the age of sixty-five. It may have been a sketch from life, from which larger official versions were made. Acquired in 1950.
Trogir (Traù in Croatia). Pinakoteka (San Giovanni Battista).
St John the Baptist; St Jerome. Canvas, each 151 x 106.
Two full-length, life-size figures. St John the Baptist, dressed in camel skin, points towards Heaven with his right hand and holds in his left hand his reed cross and his scroll inscribed Ecce Agnus Dei. The penitent St Jerome stands before a long, slender crucifix beating his breast with a stone. The two canvases decorated one side (the inside?) of the shutters of the organ in Trogir Cathedral. The canvases from the other side are lost. The organ was built in 1484 by Fra Urbano – a noted Venetian organ-maker, who also built an instrument for St Mark's Basilica. The two canvases, previously given to Carpaccio, were attributed to Gentile Bellini by Van Marle (1936) and Berenson (1957).
Beato Lorenzo Giustiniani. Canvas, 221 x 155.
Lorenzo Giustiniani (1381-1456), an Augustinian of patrician birth, was Bishop of Venice and became the first Patriarch of the city in 1451. He is shown full-length and in profile, aged and haggard, his right hand raised in blessing and his left arm cradling a book. He is given a halo, although he was not actually canonised until 1690. He is flanked by two kneeling monks, while two angels stand in the background, one holding a bishop’s mitre and the other a cross on a long staff. A Mantegnesque swag of fruit hangs overhead. The picture was originally a processional standard and is much damaged and frequently repainted. It is signed and dated 1465 on the cartellino (bottom centre). It was painted just nine years after Giustiniani’s death and is Gentile’s earliest securely datable work. The likeness was probably based on a figure executed by Jacopo Bellini for Giustiniani’s tomb in San Pietro in Castello. From the Venetian church of the Madonna dell’Orto, which had been taken over by a religious order – the secular canons of San Giorgio in Alga – that Giustiniani had founded. Transferred to the Accademia in 1852 (but not exhibited until 1877). Restored in 2005.
**Procession in the Piazza San Marco. Canvas, 367 x 745.
White-robed members of the Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista carry their reliquary containing a fragment of the True Cross across a crowded St Mark’s Square. The venerated relic is protected from the elements by a canopy. A specific event is illustrated that took place some fifty years earlier. On St Mark’s Day, 25 April 1444, a merchant of Brescia, Jacopo de’ Salis (to the right, dressed in red), whose son lay dying, prayed to the relic, and the boy was miraculously cured. The painting provides a meticulous record of the appearance of the Square at the end of the fifteenth century. St Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the base of the Campanile all look much as they do today (though only one of the original Byzantine mosaics on the Basilica’s façade – that on the far left, over the Portal of Sant’Alipio – still survives.) The tiny figure of the Doge, in an ermine cape and golden robes, is seen towards the rear of the procession on the right-hand side of the picture. Women line the windows of the Procuratie Vecchie on the left side of the square. The two figures in red robes standing to the left of the canopy, behind the candle bearer, have been identified as portraits of Gentile himself (looking towards his right) and his brother Giovanni (facing left).
The painting is signed and dated 1496. It is the earliest of three large canvases that Gentile contributed to a cycle of nine or ten paintings, illustrating miracles attributed to the relic of the True Cross, which decorated the Sala dell’Albergo of the Scuola di San Giovanni Evangelista. It occupied almost the entire width of the west (entrance) wall of the room. Along the bottom edge, two large cuts for doorways have been filled with canvas inserts. Gentile’s two other canvases for the room are also in the Accademia, as are five by other painters – Giovanni Mansueti (two), Vittore Carpaccio, Lazzaro Bastiani and Benedetto Diana. One or possibly two pictures – by Perugino and/or Marescalco (Giovanni Buonconsiglio) – are lost. The golden reliquary shown in the paintings, which had been given to the Scuola in 1369 by Philippe de Maizières, Cancelliere of the Kingdom of Cyprus, is still preserved in the Scuola’s chapel on the Rio Marin.
Two exploratory compositional drawings for the Procession in the Piazza San Marco have come down to us. Both are executed in pen and brown ink over red chalk. One is at the British Museum and the other at Chatsworth House.
*Miracle of the True Cross at the Bridge of San Lorenzo. Canvas, 323 x 430.
This painting illustrates an event that is said to have taken place on the first Sunday of Lent, 3 March 1370, shortly after the relic of the True Christ had been given to the Scuola. During the annual procession to the church of San Lorenzo, the reliquary fell from the bridge into the canal, but remained miraculously suspended above the water until Andrea Vendramin, Grand Guardian of the Scuola, was privileged to jump in and rescue it. The picture contains many contemporary portraits. Caterina Cornaro, the recently deposed Queen of Cyprus, is believed to be shown standing in profile with her maids of honour along the embankment on the left. The five gentlemen in togas kneeling on the right of the wooden platform in the foreground have been variously identified as members of the Vendramin or Cornaro families, or as portraits of Gentile (and possibly also Giovanni Bellini) with officers of the Scuola. The young girl and old woman kneeling on the left of the platform are clearly also portraits. Signed and dated 1500, and the second of the canvases painted by Gentile for the Sala dell’Albergo of the Scuola. It hung in the middle of the north wall, between Lazzaro Bastiani’s Donation of the Relic and Giovanni Mansueti’s Miracle in Campo San Lio. A thorough restoration of the picture was underway from February 2022.
The Miraculous Healing of Pietro dei Ludovici. Canvas, 369 x 259.
Pietro dei Ludovici is cured of a fever by touching a candle sanctified by contact with the relic of the True Cross. The scene takes place in the chapel of the Scuola di San Giovanni Evangelista with the brethren in their black and crimson robes in the foreground. Signed. Probably completed in 1501, and the last of the three canvases painted by Gentile for the Sala dell’Albergo of the Scuola. It hung on the south wall, between Giovanni Mansueti’s Healing of the Daughter of Benvegnudo da San Polo and Benedetto Diana’s Healing of the Son of Alvise Finetti.
Venice. Museo Correr.
Doge Giovanni Mocenigo. Wood, 62 x 46.
The sitter is shown in pure profile, as in other surviving ducal portraits by (or attributed to) Gentile. His identification as Giovanni Mocenigo is confirmed by medals and by his tomb portrait by Tullio Lombardo in Santi Giovanni e Paolo. The portrait may have been painted shortly after he became Doge at the age of 70 in 1478, and shortly before Gentile’s visit to Constantinople in 1479. It was exhibited for many years as a work of Giovanni Bellini and then given for a time to Lazzaro Bastiani. It was reattributed to Gentile Bellini in the early 1950s, after dark overpaint had been removed by cleaning. It appears to be unfinished. From the collection bequeathed to the city of Venice in 1830 by Teodoro Correr.
Doge Leonardo Loredan. Wood, 67 x 51.
Leonardo Loredan, the subject of the famous portrait by Giovanni Bellini in the London National Gallery, was Doge from 1501 to 1521. He is shown here in profile, wearing his familar Doge's cap (corno ducale) and a cape of cloth-of-gold with red arabesques. Through the window is a view of the Venetian lagoon, with the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore clearly identifiable. There are several almost identical versions of this portrait. (One at Bergamo has been attributed to Carpaccio; one at Dresden was destroyed in 1945; and there are others at San Francisco and elsewhere.) Until recently, the Correr's version was generally considered a copy (or even a nineteenth-century fake), and it was kept in storage, obscured by a thick layer of yellowed varnish. Following restoration and technical analysis in 2003, the museum concluded that the painting was an authentic early sixteenth-century work. However, specific attribution remains difficult and, since 2003, the portrait has been variously ascribed in museum publications and releases to Gentile Bellini, the School of Giovanni Bellini and Carpaccio.
Venice. Seminario Patriarcale.
Portrait of Beato Lorenzo Giustiniani. Wood, 52 x 38.
This striking profile portrait nearly replicates – bust-length – the posthumous image of the Beato Lorenzo Giustiniani blessing on the processional banner painted by Gentile Bellini in 1465 for the church of the Madonna dell'Orto (now in the Accademia). Donated to the Seminario in 1909 or 1913. After a restoration in 2006, it was catalogued by the gallery as 'attributed to Gentile Bellini'. There are several other versions, including one – slightly smaller and without the blessing right hand – in the National Museum at Warsaw.
Venice. San Marco Museum.
Organ Shutters. Canvas, each 430/33 x 211.
These four large canvases formed the double-sided doors of an organ situated in the right choir of St Mark’s Basilica. On the outside of the doors were the life-size figures of St Mark (reading his Gospel) and St Theodore (holding a broken spear). The figures stand in front of triumphal arches. and peacocks perch on the swags of fruit above their heads. On the inside of the doors (visible only when the doors were open) were the scenes of St Jerome in Penitence and St Francis receiving the Stigmata. Signed 'Bellini' (on the base of the right pillar in the St Theodore canvas). The canvases are generally dated to 1464. (However, this date – which originated with Crowe and Cavalcaselle and seems to have been based on the belief that St Mark's organ was built that year by the celebrated organ maker Bernardo d'Alemagna – does not appear to have any documentary evidence to support it.) Irrespective of their precise date, the canvases are thought to be the earliest surviving complete set of Venetian organ shutters. Mantegna’s influence is very apparent (eg. in the foreshortened arches with swags of fruit in the St Mark and St Theodore and in the fantastical rock formations in the backgrounds of the St Jerome and St Francis). Formerly displayed in the little church of San Basso, near St Mark’s Basilica. Restored in 2007-9.