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Giovanni Bellini, A Dominican, with the Attributes of Saint Peter Martyr

Key facts
Full title A Dominican, with the Attributes of Saint Peter Martyr
Artist Giovanni Bellini
Artist dates about 1435 - 1516
Date made about 1490-1500
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 59.1 × 48.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1870
Inventory number NG808
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Dominican, with the Attributes of Saint Peter Martyr
Giovanni Bellini

In 1252 Saint Peter Martyr, a Dominican friar from Verona, was assassinated in an ambush by a group of heretics. This picture was once thought to be a ‘portrait’ of the saint: we can see the hilt of a dagger which has been plunged into his heart, and a cleaver lodged in his head.

X-ray imagery shows that these objects were painted over the picture about 100 years after it was first made. It’s difficult to see the picture’s true quality as the painted surface is quite damaged. The underdrawing (the preliminary outlining of a composition), however, shows a very delicate and detailed drawing of the friar’s facial features, which matches Bellini’s sophisticated technique towards the end of his career.

The image may have been altered to show a saint, rather than an unknown Dominican friar, to make it more appealing to a potential buyer.

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