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Giovanni Bellini, The Blood of the Redeemer

Key facts
Full title The Blood of the Redeemer
Artist Giovanni Bellini
Artist dates about 1435 - 1516
Date made about 1465
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 47.6 × 35.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1887
Inventory number NG1233
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Blood of the Redeemer
Giovanni Bellini

Christ is shown resurrected after dying at the Crucifixion, his triumph over death reinforced by the way he cradles the Cross on which he was crucified. His body is weak and pale – we can see his ribcage, and his cheekbones stick out of his gaunt face. The focus of the image is the wound in Christ’s side, which he presses, releasing blood into the chalice held by the angel below. During a Christian Mass, such a chalice would contain wine.

Given its shape, size and subject, it is likely that the painting decorated the inside of a cupboard known as a tabernacle, which stored the host – the bread eaten at Mass. The putty-coloured patches were once blue clouds painted with cherubim and seraphim (red and blue winged angelic beings without bodies). They have been scratched out but we don't know when or why.

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