National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Madonna and Child Giovanni Bellini (artist)
Venetian, c. 1430/1435 - 1516
Madonna and Child, c. 1480/1485
oil on panel
painted surface: 52.3 x 41.5 cm (20 9/16 x 16 5/16 in.) overall: 53.7 x 42.5 cm (21 1/8 x 16 3/4 in.) framed: 86.8 x 70.6 x 7.9 cm (34 3/16 x 27 13/16 x 3 1/8 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1939.1.352
On View
From the Tour: Venetian Painting in the Early Renaissance
Object 2 of 7

Giovanni Bellini painted half-length images of the Virgin and Child throughout his long career. This one, with its somber color and avoidance of decoration, resembles the focused intensity of an icon. The austerity of this image, which markedly contrasts with the city's celebrated luxury, is a legacy of Byzantine art, a tradition that was reinforced when displaced Greek artists immigrated to Venice following the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

The Virgin possesses the ethereal geometry of a Byzantine madonna. Compare her delicate, oval face and arched brows, long nose and small chin, with the more robust features of Antonello's Mary. In contrast, Bellini's Virgin seems removed from everyday existence. Although the child moves actively in her arms, his focus seems distant, directed perhaps to his future suffering and death on the cross. The featureless background and the front parapet separate the holy figures from our own world. Their presence is not a physical but a spiritual one, and their image compels and concentrates the viewer's meditation. Mary and Jesus seem to glow with interior illumination.

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