Gentile Bellini (1429 – 1507)
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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