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Gentile Bellini

Titles and Honours

Count Palatine, 1481 (Turkey)
'Miles Auratus', 1481 (Turkey)

'Venetus Eques', 1469 (Holy Roman Emperor)

Imperial Count Palatine (Holy Roman Emperor)


An Italian painter, born born between 1432-1434, Gentile was trained by his father, and, together with his brother, is mentioned as assisting him in various undertakings. By the year 1464 he received, as an independent master, the commission to paint the doors of the organ of St Mark's. These panels show him to have become deeply imbued with the ideas of design adopted in the Paduan school, though there are still evidences of the early Venetian style. To the year 1465 belongs another public undertaking, that of the figure of the Patriarch Lorenzo Giustiniani now in the Academy. This shows the severe and scholarly feeling for draughtsmanship which marks all Gentile's works. In 1466 he was employed in large decorative designs illustrating the story of the Children of Israel for the 'school' of St Mark's, and already received payment at the same rate as his father. By 1469 his reputation was such that he received the title of Count of the Palatinate from the Emperor, and in 1474 we find him evidently regarded as the greatest artist in Venice, for in that year he was appointed to restore, or rather repaint, the decorations of the Sala del Gran Consiglio in the Ducal Palace, and was rewarded with a sinecure in the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. In 1479 we have a still further proof of his pre-eminent position, for in that year he was sent, at the expense of the State, to Constantinople, in accordance with the request made to the senate by Sultan Mehmet II, for the best painter in Venice. During his stay in the East he made drawings of the classical remains of Byzantium, and brought home a number of sketches of Eastern types which became stock motives with later Venetian painters. He brought back one painting which he painted of the Sultan that is dated 1480, and is signed by him with the addition of Knight, a title conferred on him by the Sultan. Gentile continued his father's connection with the 'school' of St Mark's, rising in 1492 to the position of guardian of the school. Of his few remaining works the most important were executed to decorate the walls of the schools of St John the Evangelist and St Mark. For the former he finished in 1494 the much-damaged picture of Pietro di Lodovico being cured by the relic of the cross. In 1496 he completed the great picture representing the procession of that relic in the Piazza of St Mark's; and in 1500 he executed for the same body the painting of the miraculous preservation of the relic on an occasion when the reliquary had fallen into a canal from a bridge over which it was being carried in procession. His last great undertaking for the school of St Mark's was the canvas representing the preaching of St Mark at Alexandria, which, at his death in 1507, he left to be completed by his brother. Gentile's fame as a painter has perhaps been somewhat eclipsed by that of his brother, but it is evident that in their lifetime he took the chief position in Venice. He was a profound student of perspective, and applied its rules with great success to the composition of his great historical scenes. The most famous of these was the series representing the story of the struggle with Barbarossa, which decorated the Ducal Palace. These all perished in the fire of 1577. The qualities of Gentile's art which won him the unqualified admiration of his contemporaries consist in the subtle perfection of his composition, which, apparently free and naturalistic, is really controlled by a delicate sense of balance and proportion, and the exquisite harmony of his tones, while as a draughtsman he possessed a finer feeling for line than any other Venetian of the 15th century. Gentile's will is extant and is dated 18 February 1507.

Place of birth: Venice
Place of burial: Venice





1. O. Bätschmann. Giovanni Bellini. London: Reaktion Books, Ltd., 2008.
2. G. C. Williamson. Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, vol. 1. London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd, 1918.
3. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018.

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