Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 29 September 2023

Bellini, Giovanni or Giambellinofree

Bellini, Giovanni or Giambellinofree

Italian, 15th – 16th century, male.

Born c. 1430?, in Venice or Padua; died 29 November 1516, in Venice.

Painter. Religious subjects, portraits, historical subjects.

Venetian School.

BELLINI, Giovanni: signature or monogram (Copyright

Giovanni BELLINI: signature or monogram

The son of Jacopo Bellini and the brother of Gentile Bellini, Giovanni Bellini is widely regarded as the most important artist of the family. He helped establish the Renaissance style in Venetian painting and popularise the oil painting medium, while operating perhaps the largest workshop in Renaissance Italy. He lived in Venice his entire career, apparently travelling outside the Veneto only once, to complete an altarpiece for S Francesco in Pesaro.

Giovanni’s date of birth and career before about 1470 are poorly documented. Giovanni is not mentioned in the 1471 will of Anna Rinversi, Jacopo’s wife, which has been interpreted to mean that Giovanni was Jacopo’s illegitimate son, but it is now generally accepted that Giovanni was simply the younger brother and so Gentile was named as their mother’s heir. He trained with his father, and his earliest known works were collaborations with Jacopo and Gentile, including an altarpiece for the Gattamelata Chapel in Padua (1459–1460) and narrative canvases for the Scuola Grande di S Giovanni Evangelista.

Giovanni’s painting was in constant development, influenced in turn by Andrea Mantegna, who had married Giovanni’s sister Nicolosia in 1453, Antonello da Messina, and finally Giorgione. This is not to say that he submitted passively to these influences or was a servile imitator of the three painters; rather, he freely incorporated aspects of their painting and was thus able to stay at the forefront of Venetian painting for decades. Between 1465 and 1470 his somewhat hard, linear style shows the influence of Mantegna. This is the period of the Pietà (Milan, Brera), Christ Giving His Blessing (Louvre), and the Agony in the Garden (National Gallery, London). His major surviving work of the period, which also has elements of Netherlandish painting, is the S Vincenzo Ferrer Altarpiece for SS Giovanni e Paolo. In 1470, Giovanni worked with Gentile on the decoration of the Scuola Grande di S Marco, which the brothers had begun with their father. In 1474, Giovanni succeeded his brother as painter of the Story of Alexander III cycle in the Sala del Maggior Consiglio (Great Council Hall) of the Doge’s Palace. His Pesaro Altarpiece (or Coronation of the Virgin) dates to c. 1473–1476, and signals how Giovanni established himself as a painter not only of small-scale devotional paintings but also of public altarpieces. Thus he was able to gain recognition while Gentile was abroad in the late 1470s, and distinguished himself from his older brother, who worked primarily as a portraitist and painter of large narrative canvases.

The second major influence on in Giovanni’s style was Antonello da Messina, who arrived in Venice in 1475 and brought new solutions to the problems of colour, the unity given by light, and the advantages of painting in oil, as demonstrated in his S Cassiano Altarpiece (fragments in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). Bellini was quick to understand how Antonello’s techniques would help him to express his essentially religious sensibility in his painting. While retaining a clarity of line and composition, he managed to give a surrounding luminous quality to paintings such as the Naples Transfiguration, in which the rather melancholy softness affects both the figures and the landscape. From this period, 1475 to 1490, came the Rimini Pietà and the San Giobbe Altarpiece In 1496, when he was at the height of his artistic career and had been appointed official painter to the Signoria, Giovanni received from Isabella d’Este, Marchesa of Mantua, a commission for a painting on a mythological subject. However, he drew back from what for him would have been a new development, and in 1504 he instead delivered a Nativity (untraced). Aside from religious works, Giovanni painted numerous portraits of Venetian elites, such as Doge Leonardo Loredan.

Giovanni was one of the first Renaissance artists to give such an important role to landscape as a plastic and unifying compositional element. The Baptism of Christ (c. 1500–1502) for a side altar in S Corona, Vicenza, shows Giovanni’s mastery of light and use of landscape to achieve a serene and sacred mood. From Giorgione, who may have been his pupil, Giovanni learned to exploit fully the relationships between diffused lighting and colour. Forms dissolve in the chiaroscuro with an ever-increasing softness. Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist and a Female Saint (Venice, Accademia) is perhaps the best example of this late style. Giovanni has simplified the volumes of the buildings in the background by using only two colours: a golden orange for walls catching the sun and a bluer orange for those in the shade. The S Zaccaria Altarpiece belongs to this period. About 1505, he met Albrecht Dürer, who considered him one of the greatest painters of his time. Late in his life, Giovanni finished St Mark Preaching for the Scuola di S Marco, a painting Gentile had asked him in his will to complete, and contributed to the history canvases for the Sala del Maggior Consiglio in the Doge’s Palace (destroyed 1577). At the end of his life, he also painted a few mythological works, including the Feast of the Gods for the studiolo of Alfonso d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, in 1514, and the Young Woman at Her Toilette (or Nude with a Mirror), perhaps representing the goddess Venus, in 1515.

Giovanni Bellini was a pivotal figure in the development of Venetian art, bridging his father’s transitional style with 16th-century masters like Giorgione and Titian.

Group Exhibitions

1956, De Giotto à Bellini: les primitifs italiens dans les musée de France (From Giotto to Bellini: the Italian Primitives in the Museums of France), Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris

1999, Il Rinascimento a Venezia e la pittura del Nord ai tempi di Bellini, Dürer, Tiziano (The Renaissance in Venice and Northern Painting in the Time of Bellini, Dürer and Titian), Palazzo Grassi, Venice

2002, The Age of Jan Van Eyck: the Mediterranean world of early Netherlandish painting, 1430-1530 (Jan Van Eyck, les primitifs flamands et le Sud (1430-1530). Quand les grands maîtres se rencontrent), Groeningermuseum, Bruges.

2006, Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

2011–2012, The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

2012, Bellini, Titian, and Lotto: North Italian Paintings from the Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Solo Exhibitions

1949, Giovanni Bellini, Palazzo Ducale, Venice

2000–2001, Il Colore ritrovato: Bellini a Venezia (The Rediscovery of Colour: Bellini in Venice), Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice

2004–2005, Giovanni Bellini and the Art of Devotion, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana

2008–2009, Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome

2012, Gli angeli della pieta: Intorno a Giovanni Bellini, Museo della città, Rimini

2012–2013, Giovanni Bellini: Dall’icona alla storia, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan

Museum and Gallery Holdings

Amsterdam (Rijksmus.): Virgin and Child; Virgin and Child

Bergamo (Accademia Carrara, Pinacoteca d’Arte Antica): Pietà with Virgin and St John the Evangelist; Virgin and Child; Portrait of a Man; Virgin and Child

Berlin (Bodemus.): Resurrection

Berlin (Gemäldegal.): Christ Giving His Blessing; Portraits of Two Venetian Noblemen; Virgin and Child; Christ in the Temple

Besançon (MBA et d’Archéologie): Portrait of a Man; Drunkenness of Noah

Dublin: Portraits of Two Venetians

Florence (Uffizi): Portrait of a Young Man; Dead Christ; Sacred Allegory

Fort Worth (Kimbell AM): Madonna and Child (c. 1470-1475, tempera and oil/panel); Christ Giving his Blessing (c. 1500, tempera and oil/panel)

Frankfurt am Main: Virgin and Child between St John the Baptist and St Elizabeth

Geneva: Judith Holding the Head of Holofernes

Genoa (Palazzo Rosso): Portrait of a Man; Portrait of Dr Francesco Filitto

Glasgow: Virgin and Child

La Fère: Mystic Marriage of St Catherine

London (NG): Blood of the Redeemer (c. 1460-1465, tempera/wood); Agony in the Garden (c. 1465, tempera/wood); Dead Christ supported by Angels (c. 1465-1470, tempera and oil/wood); Virgin and Child (c. 1475, oil/wood); St Jerome reading in a Landscape (1480-1485?, tempera and oil/wood); Virgin and Child (‘The Madonna of the Pomegranate’) (c. 1480-1490, oil/wood, work of studio); Virgin and Child (1480-1500, oil and tempera/wood); Circumcision (c. 1500, oil/wood, work of studio); Madonna of the Meadow (c. 1500, tempera/wood); Doge Leonardo Loredan (1501-1504, oil/wood); Assassination of St Peter Martyr (c. 1507, tempera and oil/wood); Fra Teodoro of Urbino as St Dominic (c. 1515, oil on canvas)

Madrid (Prado): Virgin and the Child Jesus between Two Saints

Milan (Castello Sforzesco): Madonna and Child Enthroned; Portrait of a Humanist

Milan (Pinacoteca di Brera): Madonna Greca; Madonna and Child Blessing; Pietà; Madonna and Child; St Mark Preaching in Alexandria (with Gentile Bellini)

Montauban: Circumcision

Munich: Scenes from the Legend of St Gall; Legend of St Drusia

Murano (Church of S Pietro Martire): Altarpiece

Naples: Transfiguration

New York (Frick Collection): St Francis in Ecstasy (c. 1480, tempera and oil on poplar panel)

New York (Metropolitan MA): Madonna and Child (c. 1480)

Padua (Mus. Civico): Portrait of a Venetian Senator

Paris (Louvre): Portrait of a Man; Christ Blessing; Virgin and Child Surrounded by Four Saints and a Donor (signed); Virgin and Child with SS Peter and Sebastian

Rome (Palazzo Colonna): St Bernard

Rome (Palazzo Doria Pamphili): Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist

Stockholm: Head of Christ

Stuttgart: Mourning the Death of Christ

Tours: Circumcision (workshop of Bellini)

Urbino (Gal. Nazionale Delle Marche): Madonna and Child with Saints

Venice (Church of S Francesco della Vigna): Virgin, Child and Four Saints

Venice (Church of S Giacomo): St Roch and St Sebastian

Venice (Church of S Giovanni Crisostomo): Virgin and Child

Venice (Church of S Salvatore): Supper at Emmaus

Venice (Church of S Zaccaria): Circumcision; Virgin and Saints

Venice (Gal. dell’Accademia): Flight into Egypt; Virgin and Saints; Madonna and Child; Allegories; Madonna with Two Trees (Madonna degli Alberetti); Virgin with St Paul and St George; Madonna and Child with St Mary Magdalene and St Catherine; S Giobbe Altarpiece; Pietà

Venice (Mus. Correr): Pietà (Angels Mourning Christ); Transfiguration; Crucifixion; Portrait of Doge Giovanni Mocenigo; Madonna and Child

Venice (Palazzo Ducale): Virgin and Child; Pietà; Virgin Enthroned with Sleeping Child

Vienna (Kunsthistorisches Mus.): Presentation of Christ in the Temple; Young Woman at her Toilette

Washington DC (NGA): Madonna and Child (c. 1480-1485, oil/panel); Portrait of a Young Man in Red (c. 1480, oil and tempera/panel); St Jerome Reading (1505, oil/panel); The Infant Bacchus (c. 1505-1510, oil/panel); Feast of the Gods (1514-1529, oil on canvas, with Titian)

Auction Records

Paris, 1798: Circumcision, FRF 2,650

Paris, 1810: Virgin and Child with St Peter and St Anthony, FRF 1,001

Paris, 1816: Jesus among the Teachers, FRF 1,100

Paris, 1832: Mystic Marriage of St Catherine, FRF 1,950

Paris, 1841: Virgin and Child Jesus, FRF 1,320

Paris, 1843: Doge; A Venetian Grandee, FRF 2,100

London, 1844: Portrait of Doge Loredan, FRF 15,750

Paris, 1857: Doge and a Venetian Grandee, FRF 2,650

Paris, 1859: Holy Family, FRF 7,800

London, 1863: Jesus on the Mount of Olives, FRF 15,900

Paris, 1865: Seated Virgin Touching the Head of a Richly Dressed and Kneeling Donor whom the Child Jesus seems to be Blessing, FRF 40,600

Paris, 1867: Virgin and the Child Jesus, FRF 62,000

London, 1874: Virgin, the Child Jesus, St Peter and St Helen, FRF 18,900

London, 1882: Portrait of a Man, FRF 13,125

London, 1892: Self-portrait of Bellini, FRF 10,760; Madonna Seated in a Landscape, the Child Jesus in Her Lap, FRF 28,875

New York, 1906: Portrait of Vincenzio Giulione, USD 575

Paris, 19 April 1906: Virgin and the Child Jesus, FRF 6,000

London, 6 May 1910: Madonna and Child, GBP 168

Paris, 16-19 June 1919: Meal at Emmaus (Giovanni Bellini ?) FRF 170,000

London, 1920: Toilette of Venus, GBP 105

London, 1923: Adoration of the Shepherds, GBP 4,410

London, 1923: B. Colleone, GBP 3,675

London, 1923: Madonna and Child, GBP 157

New York, 10 Dec 1924: Virgin and Child, USD 1,650

London, 1925: Portrait of a Man, GBP 3,570

London, 15 July 1927: Young Man in a Light Brown Doublet, GBP 6,510

Paris, 16 Feb 1928: Virgin and Child, FRF 18,000

Stockholm, 25 Sept 1935: Madonna and Child, SEK 80

London, 9 June 1939: Virgin and Child, GBP 262

New York, 23 April 1945: Virgin and Child, USD 4,300

Paris, 14 June 1955: Study of Drapery (red chalk) FRF 3,200

London, 7 July 1959: Three Studies for an Apostle, GBP 15,540

Cologne, 2-6 Nov 1961: Virgin and Child, DEM 20,000

London, 29 June 1962: Portrait of a Franciscan, Gns 700

New York, 1 May 1963: Virgin and Child, USD 25,000

London, 3 July 1963: Portrait of a Venetian Magistrate, GBP 22,000; Virgin and Child, GBP 9,000

London, 27 Nov 1963: St Sebastian, GBP 2,800

London, 9 April 1965: A Martyr, Gns 1,800

London, 28 May 1965: Portrait of Prince Djem, Gns 1,600

London, 30 June 1965: Portrait of a Venetian Judge, GBP 13,000

Zurich, 12 Nov 1976: Ecce Homo (c. 1475, oil on panel, 11¾ × 11 ins/30 × 27 cm) CHF 45,000

London, 8 July 1977: Virgin and Child (oil on panel, 14¼ × 20½ ins/36 × 52 cm) BEF 26,000

New York, 6 June 1985: Master and Pupil (oil on panel, 17½ × 25 ins/44.5 × 63.5 cm) USD 440,000

New York, 10 Jan 1990: Portrait of a Lawyer (oil on panel, 19¾ × 13¾ ins/50 × 35 cm) USD 352,000

Paris, 16 March 1994: Virgin Holding the Child at Her Feet (oil on panel, 19½ × 15¼ ins/49.5 × 38.5 cm) FRF 200,000

London, 13 Dec 1996: Virgin and Child with a Donor in Background Landscape (oil on panel, 32¾ × 26½ ins/83.2 × 67.5 cm) GBP 826,500

London, 16 Dec 1999: The Madonna and Child (oil on panel, 23 × 20 ins/59 × 51 cm) GBP 11,500

London, 7 July 2000: St Jerome (oil on panel, 34 × 14 ins/86 × 36 cm) GBP 380,000

Venice, 23 June 2002: Pietà (pen and ink, 6 × 4 ins/15 × 11 cm) EUR 250,000

New York, 24 Jan 2003: Two Crucified Thieves (tempera on panel, 31 × 11 ins/79 × 29 cm) USD 500,000


  • Gamba, Carlo: Giovanni Bellini, Gallimard, Paris, 1937.
  • Pallucchini, Rodolfo: Giovanni Bellini, exhibition catalogue, Palazzo Ducale, Venice, 1949.
  • Walker, John: Bellini and Titian at Ferrara: A Study of Styles and Taste, Phaidon, London, 1956.
  • Pallucchini, Rodolfo: Giovanni Bellini, A. Martello, Milan, 1959.
  • Heinemann, Fritz: Giovanni Bellini e i belliniani, N. Pozza, Venice, 1962.
  • Pignatti, Terisio: L’opera completa di Giovanni Bellini, Rizzoli, Milan, 1969.
  • Wilde, Johannes: Venetian Art from Bellini to Titian, Clarendon, Oxford, 1974 (reprinted 1995).
  • Goffen, Rona: ‘Icon and Vision: Giovanni Bellini’s Half-Length Madonnas’, in Art Bulletin, vol 57, no. 4, 1975.
  • Goffen, Rona: Piety and Patronage in Renaissance Venice: Bellini, Titian and the Franciscans, London and New Haven (CT), 1986.
  • Goffen, Rona: Giovanni Bellini, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT) and London, 1989.
  • Heinemann, Fritz: Giovanni Bellini e i belliniani, 3 vols, G. Olms, Hildesheim, 1991.
  • Tempestini, Anchise: Giovanni Bellini: Catalogo completo dei dipinti, catalogue raisonné, Cantini, Florence, 1992.
  • Humfrey, Peter: The Altarpiece in Renaissance Venice, Yale University Press, New Haven (CT), 1993.
  • Janson, A. F.: ‘The Meaning of the Landscape in Bellini’s “St Francis in Ecstasy”’ in Artibus et historiae, vol 15, no. 30, 1994.
  • Fry, Roger/Brown, David Alan/Kramer, Hilton: Giovanni Bellini, Ursus Press, New York, 1995.
  • Paris, Jean: L’Atelier Bellini, Lagune, Paris, 1995.
  • Belting, Hans: Giovanni Bellini: la Pietà, Modena, 1996.
  • Dalhoff, Meinolf: Giovanni Bellini: die Verklarung Christi, Rhetorik, Erinnerung, Historie, LIT, Münster, 1997.
  • Tempestini, Anchise: Giovanni Bellini, Abbeville Press, New York, 1999 (Italian edition: Fabbri, Milan, 1997; French edition: Liana Levi, Paris, 1997).
  • Tempestini, Anchise: Bellini e Belliniani in Romagna, Octavo, Florence, 1998.
  • Borchert, T.: The Age of Jan Van Eyck: the Mediterranean world of early Netherlandish painting, 1430–1530, exhibition catalogue, Thames & Hudson, New York and London, 2002.
  • Humfrey, Peter, ed.: The Cambridge Companion to Giovanni Bellini, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003.
  • Batschmann, Oskar: Giovanni Bellini, Reaktion, London, 2008.
  • Lucco, Mauro/Villa, Giovanni C. F.: Giovanni Bellini [mostra Roma, Scuderie del Quirinale, 30 settembre 2008–11 gennaio 2009], exhibition catalogue, Silvana, Milan, 2008.