Bellini Family

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

During the Renaissance (1300-1600), the Venetian painter Jacopo Bellini owned one of the busiest workshops in Italy. He painted portraits for rich people and altars for the church. He also taught many young artists. Among his students were his sons Gentile and Giovanni.

bellini

Bellini. Madonna and child. Church San Zaccaria, Venice, Italy. © Axiom Photographic Limited / SuperStock
 

Jacopo (about 1400-70), Gentile (1429-1507), and Giovanni (1430-1516) worked in the shop for years, experimenting with a new medium, oil paint. The brothers continued to paint after Jacopo died. In 1474, they began a series of historical paintings for the palace of the chief magistrate of Venice.

Sultan Mehmed II of the Ottoman Empire asked the rulers of Venice to lend him one of their best painters. Gentile was chosen and was sent to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in 1479. Giovanni remained in Venice, working at the palace, teaching, and painting. He was the first of the great Venetian painters to capture a sense of open space and light. Today he is regarded as the greatest of the Bellinis. When Gentile returned to Venice in 1480, the brothers worked together again.

In 1577, a fire burned through the palace. It destroyed countless Bellini canvases, which were among the first masterpieces of oil painting.

Reviewed by Adriane Ruskin Batterberry
Author,
The Pantheon Story of Art for Young People

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