Giovanni Bellini. Ecstasy of St. Francis, 1480 - 1485

Giovanni Bellini: biography, creativity, the best paintings of the Italian artist

Giovanni Bellini. Altar of San Jobbe (detail with an angel playing music) 1480
Altar of San Jobbe (detail with an angel playing music) 1480

Giovanni Bellini ‘s paintings give the viewer an opportunity to feel the spirit of Venice of the 15th century with its original beauty and cheerful townspeople.

Giovanni Bellini. Portrait of a young man in red, 1485 - 1490
Portrait of a young man in red, 1485 – 1490

Biography of Giovanni Bellini

A number of researchers suggest that Giovanni was born in 1433 or even later. The exact date could not be found in church books, since the boy was illegitimate, and nothing is known about his mother. The father treated the child with love and attention and personally taught his son the basics of painting.

Giovanni Bellini. Altar of Barbarigo, 1488
Altar of Barbarigo, 1488

Giovanni Bellini opened his own workshop in 1459; he involved his older brother Gentile to work on some projects. In the first years, the artist worked on portraits of nobles and their households and achieved high skill in this genre. Bellini received the first state order for painting a polyptych in the church of San Gianipolo in 1464, the work took four years.

Giovanni Bellini. Ecstasy of St. Francis, 1480 - 1485
Ecstasy of St. Francis, 1480 – 1485

In 1470, his father died without mentioning his son in his will, but the artist did not need money, since by that time he was already sufficiently provided and loaded with orders. The city authorities even paid him the so-called “sensoria” a fixed salary, which the court painter received regardless of the amount of work. Despite material well-being, Giovanni Bellini continued to work hard.


For ten years, he traveled extensively around the outskirts of Venice, then to capture the majestic landscapes in his subjects. After 1476, under the influence of the Sicilian Antonello da Messina, the master became interested in oil painting, which gave more opportunities in terms of transferring light and color effects. He completed the altarpiece of Pesaro in this technique, after which oil paints began to gain popularity among Venetian painters. In parallel, the artist painted portraits that were distinguished by deep realism.

Giovanni Bellini. Feast of the gods
Feast of the gods

In 1483 Bellini was appointed the official painter of the Most Serene Republic of Venice and was exempted from paying taxes to the treasury, and after 1507 he began painting the hall of the Grand Council in the Doge’s Palace. His advanced age was not reflected in his skill. One of the last masterpieces of Giovanni Bellini on the subject of antiquity “Feast of the Gods” dated 1514, when the author was already over eighty.

Giovanni Bellini. Murder of Saint Peter Martyr
Murder of Saint Peter Martyr

The aged artist died on November 29, 1516, leaving behind two hundred sketches, frescoes and paintings.

The famous Venetian was known far beyond the borders of his native Italy, and his works influenced the subsequent development of European fine arts. Bellini’s followers were his students Titian (Tiziano Vecellio), Lorenzo Lotto (Lorenzo Lotto), Giorgione (Giorgione). The most famous paintings by Giovanni Bellini

Orpheus 1515. Giovanni Bellini
Orpheus 1515

In his paintings, Giovanni Bellini glorified the bright and festive life of his native Venice. He was able to show not only the external beauty of the streets, buildings and the surrounding nature, but also the high spirituality of the city, the center of Italian Renaissance art. The master’s painting is based on a sensory perception of the world, his works are distinguished not only by a precisely calibrated composition and clear drawing, but also by an amazing emotionality, which Bellini conveyed with the help of saturated colors and a subtle play of light and shadow.

Sacred allegory, 1490 - 1500
Sacred allegory, 1490 – 1500
The most famous works of the master:
  1. “Pieta” (c. 1465) the traditional plot of mourning for Christ is imbued with deep sorrow, although the expressions on the faces of the characters cannot be perceived unambiguously. The work is distinguished by a certain understatement characteristic of Bellini’s work.
  2. “The Coronation of Mary” (1475) in the painting of the altar, the author first applied the technique of oil painting, so the picture creates the feeling of a majestic space filled with light.
  3. “Transfiguration of the Lord” (1480) the figures of the apostles are set against the background of a realistic landscape, which spiritually brings together the earthly and divine principles.
  4. “Sacred Allegory” (c. 1500) inspired by the then popular poem “Pilgrimage of Souls” by French author Guillaume de Deguileville. The artist sees in the image of a tree a symbol of Christ, and the playing babies are the souls of purgatory;
  5. “Doge Leonardo Loredan” (1501) considered the best portrait in Bellini’s legacy, the work was written immediately after the election of Loredan to public office.
Saint Jerome in the wasteland
Saint Jerome in the wasteland
Triptych Frari, 1488
Triptych Frari, 1488
The Virgin and Child with St. Catherine and Mary Magdalene. 1490
The Virgin and Child with St. Catherine and Mary Magdalene. 1490
Sermon St. Mark in Alexandria, 1504 - 1507
Sermon St. Mark in Alexandria, 1504 – 1507
Saint Mark's sermon in Alexandria
Saint Mark’s sermon in Alexandria