Giovanni Bellini

active about 1459; died 1516

Bellini was one of the most influential Venetian artists. He lived and worked in Venice all his life; his career spanned 65 years. He is celebrated for his pioneering portrayal of natural light, seen in such works as 'The Agony in the Garden', for his tender and graceful pictures of the Virgin and for his altarpieces. Dürer, in Venice in about 1506, wrote that Giovanni 'is very old and yet he is the best painter of all'.

Portrait of Giovanni Bellini
Detail from Vittore di Matteo Belliniano, Portrait of a Man (Giovanni Bellini)
Musée Condé, Chantilly
© RMN/René-Gabriel Ojéda 

Giovanni Bellini was born into the leading dynasty of Venetian painters. He seems to have been the younger brother of Gentile Bellini. His development was first shaped by his father, Jacopo. His brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna also influenced early works, such as 'The Blood of the Redeemer' and 'The Agony in the Garden'. The visit of Antonello da Messina to Venice in 1475-6 may also have influenced him.

Many signed paintings survive, as well as a number of workshop productions, including works on this screen. 'The Assassination of Saint Peter Martyr' is now thought to be by him rather than by his workshop. In his old age Bellini executed a few secular narrative paintings, of which the greatest is 'The Feast of the Gods', later modified by Titian.