Giovanni Bellini (artist)|
Italian, c. 1430/1435 - 1516
Portrait of a Young Man in Red, c. 1480
oil and tempera on panel
overall: 32 x 26.5 cm (12 5/8 x 10 7/16 in.) framed: 50.5 x 44.9 x 3.5 cm (19 7/8 x 17 11/16 x 1 3/8 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
Object 3 of 7
Beginning in the mid-1300s, an official portrait of each new doge, the elected head of the Venetian republic, was hung in the room where the city's governing council met. Paintings commissioned by Venice's religious confraternities sometimes also included likenesses of the society's leading members. Single portraits of private individuals, however, were virtually unknown until the 1470s. Venetians credited their new popularity to Bellini. His portraits spawned such demand for likenesses of family members that his contemporaries reported it common to see the faces of four generations in a single household.
The individualized features of this young man are carefully defined but do not reveal much about his personality. In fact, all of Bellini's portraits of young men share a reserved dignity but deny a more penetrating look into the sitter's character.
Venetian men of both the patrician and the citizen classes wore a long, simple black robe, a small black hat, and a stole over the shoulder or sometimes, as here, over the head. Red gowns worn by senators were also prescribed for certain ceremonial occasions.
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