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702
BELLINI

severity and dryness of the Paduan manner much mitigated by the dawning splendour of true Venetian colour—these are the qualities that no injury has been able to deface. They are again manifest in an interesting Adoration of the Magi in the Layard collection; and reappear still more forcibly in the last work undertaken by the artist, the great picture now at the Brera in Milan of St Mark preaching at Alexandria; this was commissioned by the Scuola of St Mark in March 1505, and left by the artist in his will, dated 18th of February 1507, to be finished by his brother Giovanni. Of single portraits by this artist, who was almost as famous for them as for processional groups, there survive one of a doge at the Museo Correr in Venice, one of Catarina Cornaro at Budapest, one of a mathematician at the National Gallery, another of a monk in the same gallery, signed wrongly to all appearance with the name of Giovanni Bellini, besides one or two others in private hands. The features of Gentile himself are known from a portrait medallion by Camelio, and can be recognized in two extant drawings, one at Berlin supposed to be by the painter’s own hand, and another, much larger and more finished, at Christ Church, Oxford, which is variously attributed to Bonsignori and A. Vivarini.

III. Giovanni Bellini (1430-1431-1516) is generally assumed to have been the second son of Jacopo by his wife Anna; though the fact that she does not mention him in her will with her other sons has thrown some slight doubt upon the matter. At any rate he was brought up in his father’s 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 father’s assistants in works both at Venice and Padua. In Giovanni’s earliest independent works 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 works 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 works 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 pictures Giovanni combines with the Paduan severity of drawing and complex rigidity of drapery a depth of religious feeling and human pathos which is his own. They are all executed in the old tempera method; and in the last named the tragedy of the scene is softened by a new and beautiful effect of romantic sunrise colour. In a somewhat changed and more personal manner, with less harshness of contour and a broader treatment of forms and draperies, but not less force of religious feeling, are the two pictures of the Dead Christ supported by Angels, in these days one of the master’s most frequent themes, at Rimini and at Berlin. Chronologically to be placed with these are two Madonnas, one at the church of the Madonna del Orto at Venice and one in the Lochis collection at Bergamo; devout intensity of feeling and rich solemnity of colour being in the case of all these early Madonnas combined with a singularly direct rendering of the natural movements and attitudes of children.

The above-named works, 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 he was commissioned in 1470 to paint a Deluge with Noah’s Ark. None of the master’s works 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 serener 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 paintings in the great hall of the ducal palace, in payment for which he 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 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 works, 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 his work, including both altar-pieces with many figures and simple Madonnas, a considerable number have fortunately been preserved. They show him gradually throwing off the last restraints of the 15th-century manner; gradually acquiring a complete mastery of the new oil medium introduced in Venice by Antonello da Messina about 1473, and mastering with its help all, or nearly all, the secrets of the perfect fusion of colours and atmospheric gradation of tones. The old intensity of pathetic and devout feeling gradually fades away and gives place to a noble, if more worldly, serenity and charm. The enthroned Virgin and Child become tranquil and commanding in their sweetness; the personages of the attendant saints gain in power, presence and individuality; enchanting groups of singing and viol-playing angels symbolize and complete the harmony of the scene. The full splendour of Venetian colour invests alike the figures, their architectural framework, the landscape and the sky. The altar-piece of the Frari at Venice, the altar-piece of San Giobbe, now at the academy, the Virgin between SS. Paul and George, also at the academy, and the altar-piece with the kneeling doge Barbarigo at Murano, are among the most conspicuous examples. Simple Madonnas of the same period (about 1485-1490) are in the Venice academy, in the National Gallery, at Turin and at Bergamo. An interval of some years, no doubt chiefly occupied with work in the Hall of the Great Council, seems to separate the last-named altar-pieces from that of the church of San Zaccaria at Venice, which is perhaps the most beautiful and imposing of all, and is dated 1505, the year following that of Giorgione’s Madonna at Castelfranco. Another great altar-piece with saints, that of the church of San Francesco de la Vigna at Venice, belongs to 1507; that of La Corona at Vicenza, a Baptism of Christ in a landscape, to 1510; to 1513 that of San Giovanni Crisostomo at Venice, where the aged saint Jerome, seated on a hill, is raised high against a resplendent sunset background, with SS. Christopher and Augustine standing facing each other below him, in front. Of Giovanni’s activity in the interval between the altar-pieces of San Giobbe and of Murano and that of San Zaccaria, there are a few minor evidences left, though the great mass of its results perished with the fire of the ducal palace in 1577. The examples that remain consist of one very interesting and beautiful allegorical picture in the Uffizi at Florence, the subject of which had remained a riddle until it was recently identified as an illustration of a French medieval allegory, the Pèlerinage de l’âme by Guillaume de Guilleville; with a set of five other allegories or moral emblems, on a smaller scale and very romantically treated, in the academy at Venice. To these should probably be added, as painted