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Biography of Giovanni Bellini
Italian Early Renaissance painter & musician
born 1430 - died 1516
Also known as: Giambellino, Giovanni de Bellini, Giovanni di Bellino, Jan de Bellini, Giovanni Belino, Giovanni Bellein, Giovanni Belleni, Giovanni Bellin, Jean Béllin, Gio Bellini, John Bellini, Giovanni Bellinj, Giouanni Bellino, Giovanni Bellino, Jean Bellino, Ioannes Bellinus.
Brother-in-law of: Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506)
|GIOVANNI BELLINI (1430-1516) is generally assumed to have been the second son of Jacopo by his wife Anna; though the fact that she does net mention him in her will with her other sons has thrown some slight doubt upon the matter. At any rate Giovanni Bellini was brought up in his fathers house, and always lived and worked in the closest fraternal relation with Gentile. Up till the age of nearly thirty we find documentary evidence of the two sons having served as their fathers assistants in paintings both at Venice and Padua. In earliest independent paintings by Bellini we find him more strongly influenced by the harsh and searching manner of the Paduan school, and especially of his own brother-in-law Mantegna, than by the more graceful and facile style of Jacopo. this influence seems to have lasted at full strength until after the departure of his brother-in-law Mantegna for the court of Mantua, in 1460. The earliest of Giovanni's independent paintings no doubt date from before this period. Three of these exist at the Correr museum in Venice: a Crucifixion, a Transfiguration, and a Dead Christ supported by Angels. Two Madonnas of the same or even earlier date are in private collections in America, a third in that of Signor Frizzoni at Milan; while two beautiful Giovanni Bellini paintings in the National Gallery of London seem to bring the period to a close. One of these is of a rare subject, the Blood of the Redeemer; the other is the fine picture of Christ's Agony in the Garden, formerly in the Northbrook collection. The last-named piece was evidently executed in friendly rivalry with Mantegna, whose version of the subject hangs near by; the main idea of the composition in both cases being taken from a drawing by Jacopo Bellini in the British Museum sketch-book. In all these paintings by Bellini combines with the Paduan severity of drawing and complex rigidity of drapery a depth of religious feeling and human pathos which is his own.|
|The above-named Giovanni Bellini art, all still executed in tempera, are no doubt earlier than the date of Giovanni's first appointment to work along with his brother and other artists in the Scuola di San Marco, where among other subjects artists Giovanni Bellini was commissioned in 1470 to paint a Deluge with Noah's Ark. None of the masters paintings of this kind, whether painted for the various schools or confraternities or for the ducal palace, have survived. To the decade following 1470 must probably be assigned a Transfiguration now in the Naples museum, repeating with greatly ripened powers and in a much screner spirit the subject of his early effort at Venice; and also the great altar-piece of the Coronation of the Virgin at Pesaro, which would seem to be his earliest effort in a form of art previously almost monopolized in Venice by the rival school of the Vivarini.|
Probably not much later was the still more famous altar-piece painted in tempera for a chapel in the church of S. Giovanni e Paolo,
where it perished along with Titian's Peter Martyr and Tintoretto's Crucifixion in the disastrous fire of 1867. After 1479-1480
very much of Giovanni's time and energy must have been taken up by his duties as conservator of the Giovanni Bellini paintings in
the great hall of the ducal palace, in payment for which Giovanni Bellini was awarded, first the
reversion of a broker's place in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, and afterwards, as a substitute, a fixed annual pension of eighty
ducats. Besides repairing and renewing the Giovanni Bellini works of his predecessors he was commissioned to paint a number of new
subjects, six or seven in all, in further illustration of the part played by Venice in the wars of Barbarossa and the pope. These
Giovanni Bellini paintings, executed with much interruption and delay, were the object of universal admiration while they lasted, but not a
trace of them survived the fire of 1577; neither have any other examples of his historical and processional compositions come down, enabling us to
compare his manner in such subjects with that of his brother Gentile. Of the other, the religious class of Giovanni Bellini painting, including
both altar-pieces with many figures and simple Madonnas, a considerable number have fortunately been preserved.
The last ten or twelve years of the masters life saw him besieged with more commissions than Giovanni Bellini could well complete. Already in the years 1501-1504 the marchioness Isabella Gonzaga of Mantua had had great difficulty in obtaining delivery from him of a picture of the Madonna and Saints (now lost) for which part payment had been made in advance. In 1505 she endeavoured through Cardinal Bembo to obtain from him another picture, this time of a secular or mythological character. What the subject of this piece was, or whether it was actually delivered, we do not know. Albrecht Dürer, visiting Venice for a second time in 1506, reports of Painter Giovanni Bellini as still the best painter in the city, and as full of all courtesy and generosity towards foreign brethren of the brush. In 1507 Gentile Bellini died, and Giovanni Bellini completed the picture of the Preaching of St Mark which Giovanni Bellini had left unfinished; a task on the fulfilment of which the bequest by the elder brother to the younger of their father's sketch-book had been made conditional. In 1513 Giovanni's position as sole master (since the death of his brother and of Alvise Vivarini) in charge of the Giovanni Bellini paintings in the Hall of the Great Council was threatened by an application on the part of his own former pupil, Titian, for a joint-share in the same undertaking, to be paid for on the same terms. Titian's application was first granted, then after a year rescinded, and then after another year or two granted again; and the aged master must no doubt have undergone some annoyance from his sometime pupil's proceedings. In 1514 Giovanni Bellini undertook to paint a Bacchanal for the duke Alfonso of Ferrara, but died in 1516, leaving it to be finished by his pupils; this picture is now at Alnwick.
|BIBLIOGRAPHY. Vasari, ed. Milanesi, vol. iii.; Ridolfi, Le Maraviglie, &c., vol. i.; Francesco Sansovino, Venezia Descritta; Morelli, Notizia, &c., di un Anonimo; Zanetti, Pittura Veneziana; F. Aglietti, Elogio Storico di Jacopo e Giovanni Bellini; G. Bernasconi, Genni intorno Ia vita e fe opere di Jacopo Bellini; Moschini, Giovanni Bellini e pittori contemporanei; E. Galichon in Gazette des Beaux-Arts (i866); Crowe and Cavalcaselle, History of Painting in North Italy, vol. i.; Hubert Janitschek, Giovanni Bellini in Dohmes Kunst und Künstler; Julius Meyer in Meyers Allgemeines Künstler-Lexileon, vol. iii. (1885); Pompco Molmenti, I pittori Bellini in Studi e ricerche di Storia d'Arte; P. Paoletti, Raccolta di documenti inedsti, fasc. i.; Vasari, Vile di Gentile da Fabriano e Vittor Pisanello, ed. Venturi; Corrado Ricci in Rassegna d'Arte (1901, 903), and Rivista d'Arte (1906); Roger Fry, Giovanni Bellini in The Artists Library; Everard Meyncil, Giovanni Bellini in Newness Art Library (useful for a nearly complete set of reproductions of the known Giovanni Bellini paintings); Corrado Ricci, Jacopo Bellini e i suoi Libri di Disegni; Victor Goloubeff, Les Dessins de Jacopo Bellini (the two paintings last cited reproduce in full, that of M. Goioubeff by far the most skilfully, the contents of both the Paris and the London sketch-books). (S.C.)||
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