Venice and the Veneto 1450-1500
Venice during the 15th century was a great trading republic. Paintings by the city’s official painter, Gentile Bellini, reveal its connections with Byzantium and the Ottoman Empire. Links with the Netherlands also profoundly affected the appearance of Venetian painting. Antonello da Messina had learned Netherlandish oil painting techniques in his native Sicily but, in 1475–6, on seeing the many pictures imported by Venetians from the Netherlands, he was further encouraged to emulate their detailed naturalism and, especially, the bold characterisation and commanding presence of the portraits. Antonello’s example helped inspire a Venetian vogue for portraiture, climaxing with Giovanni Bellini’s masterpiece – his portrait of Doge Loredan.
Other influences are evident in Bellini’s work. His first linear style was strongly affected by the paintings of his brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna, but he developed a different approach to the setting of figures in landscape. He achieved a complete integration; the shapes of figures and landscape features reflect one another and both are bathed in radiant light.