Painter/Artist: Gentile Bellini

Venetian School. Son of Jacopo Bellini and elder brother of Giovanni Bellini. Sent to Constantinople by the Venetians in 1479 at the request of the Sultan Wehmet Ali for a distinguished portrait painter.


PORTRAIT OF MEHMET ALI. A bust of the Sultan nearly in profile to left, against a black background in an arched opening with a rich carpet falling over the sill. He has a long curved nose, moustache, and pointed beard. He wears a large white turban with red crown, and a red cloak with a broad collar of brown fur, which has been restored.

“As a portrait, this injured piece is still of extraordinary interest; and whilst it presents to us the lineaments of the wiliest of Orientals, it charms us by the wondrous finish of the parts which have resisted the ravages of time.” (C, and C.)

Dated November 25, 1480. Layard Bequest, 1917.


THE PREACHING OF ST. MARK. The foreground of a large square, flanked on either side by plain square buildings, and backed by the fa~ade of a magnificent church, is filled with people forming three principal groups. On the left is a crowd standing behind St. Mark, who is preaching from the top of a small stone bridge. In the centre about twenty women in white Oriental costume are seated on a carpet; and on the right a number of men are standing, several of them with large turbans. The scene is supposed to represent Alexandria, and though the church is reminiscent of St. Mark’s, is given an Oriental air by the introduction of an obelisk, a palm-tree, and a giraffe.

This great picture was originally in the School of San Marco. It was left unfinished at Gentile’s death in 1507, and completed by his brother Giovanni.

“We see in this piece the final creation of the elder and the mature labour of the younger brother. . . The canvas has lost most of its value from abrasion and repainting, yet amidst the ruin we still perceive that the art of Gentile on the eve of his death was better than it had ever been before.” (C. and C.)


THE PROCESSION OF THE HOLY CROSS. “The scene is laid in the Piazza of San Marco, Venice, with the Doge’s palace on the right and the Colonnade on the left. The procession issued from the portal between San Marco and the palace, and gravely proceeding up the Piazza, has turned at right angles to the left; so that, whilst the van, headed by brethren of the school, has been formed into a deep array on the shady side, the middle of the foreground is occupied by the baldequin covering the shrine of the relic, with its white-clad bearers and satellites holding tapers; and on the sunny side the deputation with their flags and maces, the clergy, and the Doge with the umbrella advance in solemn state. Near the shrine kneels the merchant de Salis, whose son was healed by his father’s vow to the Cross. Within the rectangle of the procession, animated groups of spectators and single figures are disposed with much felicity, affording lively illustration of the costume of the period. There is no doubt that this is the most important extant work of the Venetian School previous to the advent of Titian.” (C. and C.) Painted in 1496 for the School of San Giovanni Evangelista, Venice.

THE MIRACLE OF THE HOLY CROSS. The foreground, beyond a narrow ledge of planks across the foot of the picture, is a canal, flanked on either side by high houses, and disappearing through the round arch of a curved foot-bridge which cuts across the middle distance. The left bank of the canal is thronged with people, who watch St. Vendramin rescuing the cross from the water, while two or three boats are being put off to assist him. The procession halts on the bridge, with a tall banner in the centre. In the right foreground are five kneeling figures larger than the rest.

Painted in 1500 for the School of San Giovanni Evangelista, Venice.