The Early Modern World, C. 1300–1600

Renaissance Venice

Who were the Bellini brothers?

Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, members of a highly regarded family of artists, were among the most influential Venetian artists during the Renaissance. Andrea Mantegna, another famous Venetian painter, was their brother-in-law. Gentile Bellini (c. 1430–1507) received many high status commissions from the city of Venice, including decorative work on the Doge’s Palace, though most of his art has been lost. One painting that has survived is his portrait of Sultan Mehmet II, which he painted as a court painter in Constantinople. His work there highlights the ties between the two cities.

Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430–1517) is slightly more famous than his brother, and is regarded by some scholars the one of the most important artists of the Venetian Renaissance. He is known for his abilities to manipulate color, space, and form and completed important Christian-themed works on a monumental scale. In 1478 he painted Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints Francis, John the Baptist, Job, Dominic, Sebastian, and Louis of Toulouse for the Chapel of the Hospital of San Giobbe. In this work, Giovanni Bellini masterfully creates the illusion of three-dimensional space as the Madonna and Child sit enthroned within a vaulted apse decorated with Byzantine-inspired paintings and mosaics. Bellini is clearly a master of perpsectival techniques, such as foreshortening, and creates a realistic architectural space with rich colors, and attention to detail on par with Northern European masters. The golds, reds, and blues, along with the ornate decoration and use of light, reflect the aesthetic values of the Venetian Renaissance.


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