Gentile Bellini (1429 – 1507)

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Madonna and Child with Donors 1460

Gentile Bellini was an Italian painter. Born in Venice, the son of the painter Jacopo Bellini, he was christened Gentile after Jacopo’s master, Gentile da Fabriano. From 1474 he was the official portrait artist for the Doges of Venice.

Portrait of Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus

Much of Gentile Bellini’s surviving work consists of very large paintings for public buildings, including those for the Scuola Grande di San Marco (1470s), painted in conjunction with his brother, the even better known Giovanni Bellini. The Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista hired Bellini amongst other artists to paint a narrative cycle.

Portrait of a Patrician

Bellini painted three major oil on canvas paintings that we know of. The most beautiful, the Procession of the True Cross in Piazza San Marco (now in the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice) was painted in 1496. Bellini depicts a man witnessing a miracle in the Piazza; this painting gained the Scuola huge prestige. In 1478 he was chosen by the government of Venice to go to Istanbul and finish a portrait of Sultan Mehmed II (now in the National Gallery, London, but largely overpainted). It has been noticed that the portrait is like one of the figures in a painting by Marco Palmezzano, Jesus among the Doctors in the Temple (Brisighella, near Forl and Ravenna). So the dating and authorship of the portrait by Bellini have been placed in question.

Recovery of the Relic of the True Cross at the Bridge of St. Lorenzo 1496-1500

Subsequently an Oriental flavor appears in several of his paintings, including the portrait of a Turkish artist and St. Mark Preaching at Alexandria (Brera, Milan). The last was completed by his brother, Giovanni Bellini.

Procession at St. Mark’s Square 1496

A portrait by Gentile Bellini and workshop of the much-loved Venetian Beato Lorenzo Giustiniani is at the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum in Milan. In his last years he was the first master of Titian.

Portrait of Sultan Mehmet II, 1480

Still wondering about an Italian painting in your family collection? Contact us…it could be by Gentile Bellini.