Bellini, Jacopo (ca. 1400–1470)

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Bellini, Jacopo (ca. 14001470)

A painter of Venice, Bellini was the elder of an important family of artists. His two sons Gentile and Giovanni also emerged as prominent artists; his nephew Leonardo Bellini was a painter of manuscripts. His daughter Nicolosia married Andrea Mantegna, one of Bellini's pupils and a noteworthy artist in his own right.

Jacopo Bellini was the son of a pewterer. He was born in Venice, where he studied with Gentile da Fabriano, a famous painter who had workshops in Venice and Brescia. In about 1414, Bellini followed Fabriano to Florence. While Bellini was still a student, classical art was inspiring several mature Florentine artists of the time, including Masaccio, Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Paolo Uccello. This new approach left a permanent mark on Bellini and on the art and architecture of Venice.

After his apprenticeship Bellini returned to Venice, where by the late 1420s he was master of his own workshop. He swiftly established himself as the most renowned painter in the city. He was commissioned by the city of Verona to paint a large Crucifixion for the city's cathedral, a work that was later destroyed. In 1441, he entered and won a competition with the artist Antonio Pisanello to create a portrait of Leonello d'Este, the marquess of Ferrara. He designed an altarpiece for the funerary chapel of the Gattamalata family in Padua and also did large-scale works for two Venetian confraternities, San Giovanni and San Marco. All of these works greatly enhanced Bellini's reputation and all of them disappeared or were destroyed after his death. Art historians believe that his surviving painting Sts. Anthony Abbot and Bernardino of Siena, which is now housed in Washington's National Gallery, made up part of the Gattamalata altarpiece.

Bellini's works straddle the Late Gothic and Early Renaissance styles. He painted icons of the Madonna in the traditional Byzantine style that was popular for centuries in Venice. Although he held to this older style in depicting figures and drapery, and in the use of gilding, under the influence of the Florentine artist Leon Battista Alberti, Bellini also introduced the new technique of one-point perspective into his works. He trained younger artists, including Andrea Mantegna, in these new techniques that gave paintings depth and volume they had lacked in the Gothic style.

Two of Bellini's notebooks, containing more than two hundred sketches, were even better known to contemporary artists than his paintings. Left to his sons in Bellini's will, they were used for generations by Venetian artists as models in classical and biblical themes and as studies in techniques of perspective.

See Also: Bellini, Gentile; Bellini, Giovanni; Mantegna, Andrea

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Bellini, Jacopo (ca. 1400–1470)

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