Overview

Giovanni Bellini and Titian’s The Feast of the Gods is one of the greatest Renaissance paintings in the United States by two fathers of Venetian art. In this illustration of a scene from Ovid's Fasti, the gods, with Jupiter, Neptune, and Apollo among them, revel in a wooded pastoral setting, eating and drinking, attended by nymphs and satyrs. According to the tale, the lustful Priapus, god of fertility, stealthily lifts the gown of the sleeping nymph Lotis, as seen in the painting. A moment later, he will be foiled by the braying of Silenus' ass and the assembled deities will laugh at Priapus' misadventure.

The Feast was the first in a series of mythologies, or bacchanals, commissioned by Duke Alfonso d'Este to decorate the camerino d'alabastro (alabaster study) of his castle in Ferrara. Bellini completed it two years before his death in 1514. Years later, the Duke commissioned two reworkings of portions of Bellini’s canvas. Dosso Dossi made an initial alteration to the landscape at left and added the pheasant and bright green foliage to the tree at upper right. Most famously, Bellini’s student, Titian, made a second set of alterations, painting out Dosso’s landscape with the dramatic, mountainous backdrop now seen, leaving only Dosso’s pheasant intact. It is possible that Titian wished to harmonize the Feast with the other, later paintings he also created for the camerino at the Duke’s behest. The figures and elements of the bacchanal were untouched by the later artists and remain Bellini’s own. The original tonalities and intensity of the colors have recently been restored, and the painting has regained its sense of depth and spaciousness.

Inscription

lower right on wooden tub: joannes bellinus venetus / p MDXIIII

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Probably commissioned by Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara [d. 1534);[1] by inheritance to his son, Ercole II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara [d. 1559]; by inheritance to his son, Alfonso II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara [d. 1597]; by inheritance to his cousin, Cesare d'Este, Duke of Ferrara; confiscated 1598 from the Castello at Ferrara by Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini [d. 1621], Rome, when he was acting as Papal Legate and recorded in his inventory of 1603; by inheritance to his nephew, Cardinal Ippolito Aldobrandini [d. 1638], Rome, and recorded in his inventory of 1626; by inheritance to his niece, Olimpia Aldobrandini Borghese Pamphilj [d. 1681], Rome, and recorded in her pre-1665 inventory and 1682 posthumous inventory; by inheritance to her son, Giovan Battista Pamphilj Aldobrandini [d. 1710], Rome;[2] Aldobrandini heirs, until the line became extinct in 1760;[3] by inheritance 1769 to Paolo Borghese Aldobrandini [d. 1792], Rome; by inheritance to his nephew, Giovan Battista Borghese Aldobrandini [d. 1802], Rome; purchased 1796/1797 by Pietro Camuccini [1761-1833] for the collection of his brother, Vincenzo Camuccini [1771-1844], Rome;[4] presumably by inheritance to Vincenzo's son, Giovanni Battista Camuccini [1819-1904], Rome; sold 1853 with the entire Camuccini collection through Antonio Giacinto Saverio, Count Cabral, Rome,[5] to Algernon Percy, 4th duke of Northumberland [1792-1865], Alnwick Castle, Northumberland; by inheritance to his cousin, George Percy, 5th duke of Northumberland [1778-1867], Alnwick Castle; by inheritance to his son, Algernon George Percy, 6th duke of Northumberland [1810-1899], Alnwick Castle; by inheritance to his son, Henry George Percy, 7th duke of Northumberland 1846-1918], Alnwick Castle; sold 1916 to (Thomas Agnew & Sons, London) on joint account with (Arthur J. Sulley and Co., London);[6] inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, after purchase in 1922 by funds of the estate; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1856
British Institution, London, 1856, no. 48, as The Gods feasting on the Fruits of the Earth.
1920
Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1920, unnumbered catalogue.
1990
Tiziano [NGA title: Titian: Prince of Painters], Palazzo Ducale, Venice; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1990-1991, no. 19, repro.
2003
Titian, The National Gallery, London; Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2003, no. 15, repro.
2006
Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 2006-2007, no. 32, repro., fig. 7 in brochure.

Bibliography

1865
Hartshorne, Rev. C.H. A Guide to Alnwick Castle. London, 1865: 62.
1923
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1923: unpaginated, repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
1930
Valentiner, Wilhelm R., ed. Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. London, 1930: n.p., pl. 18.
1931
Paintings in the Collection of Joseph Widener at Lynnewood Hall. Intro. by Wilhelm R. Valentiner. Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, 1931: 106, repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
1935
Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 73, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 73, repro.).
1942
Works of Art from the Widener Collection. Foreword by David Finley and John Walker. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 5, as by Giovanni Bellini.
1944
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 62, color repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
1948
Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 14, repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
1951
Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 74-78, repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
1956
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 24, color repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 45
1960
The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 6, as by Giovanni Bellini.
1960
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Later Italian Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Six in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 22, color repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 144, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 12, as by Giovanni Bellini.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:154, color repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 5, repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
1974
Fehl, Philipp. "The Worship of Bacchus and Venus in Bellini's and Titian's Bacchanals for Alfonso d'Este." Studies in the History of Art vol. 6 (1974):38, 42-55, 58, 61, 79, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 22, repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
1976
Alsop, Joseph. The Rare Art Traditions: The History of Art Collecting and Its Linked Phenomena Wherever These Have Appeared. Bollingen series 35, no. 27. New York, 1976: 92, fig. 34.
1979
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:38-47, II:pl. 26, 26A, 26B
1979
Sutton, Denys. "Robert Langton Douglas. Part III." Apollo 109 (June 1979): 431-431 [149-150].
1979
Watson, Ross. National Gallery of Art. London, 1979: 29, pl. 13, color repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 201, no. 239, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 41, repro.
1990
Bull, David and Plesters, Joyce. "The Feast of the Gods: Conservation, Examination, and Interpretation." Studies in the History of Art 40 (1990).
1991
Gingold, Diane J. and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 91-92, 164-165, 200-201, color repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 198, 203, color repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 31, repro.
1992
Rearick, W. R. "From Arcady to the Barnyard." Studies in the History of Art 36 (1992): repro. no. 17.
1992
Tempestini, Anchise. Giovanni Bellini: catalogo complete dei dipinti. Florence, 1992: 9, 290-295, no. 103.
1993
Anderson, Jaynie. "The Provenance of Bellini's Feast of the Gods and a New/Old Interpretation." Studies in the History of Art 45 (1993): 264-287, repro. no. 10.
1993
Brown, David Alan. "The Pentimenti in The Feast of the Gods." Studies in the History of Art 45 (1993): 288-299, repro. no. 1, 2, 5, 7, 10.
1993
Bull, David. "The Feast of the Gods: Conservation and Investigation." Studies in the History of Art 45 (1993): 366-373, repro. no. 1-4, 6-9.
1993
Holberton, Paul. "The Pastorale or Fete champetre in the Early Sixteenth Century." Studies in the History of Art 45 (1993): 245-255, repro. no. 9.
1993
Manca, Joseph. "What is Ferrarese about Bellini's Feast of the Gods?" Studies in the History of Art 45 (1993):300-313, repro. no. 1, 2.
1993
Plesters, Joyce. "Examination of Giovanni Bellini's Feast of the Gods: A Summary and Interpretation of the Results." Studies in the History of Art 45 (1993): 374-391, repro. no. 1, 2.
1993
Sheard, Wendy Stedman. "Antonio Lombardo's Reliefs for Alfonso d'Este's Studio di Marmi: Their Significance and Impact on Titian." Studies in the History of Art 45 (1993): 317, 320.
1993
Steinberg, Arthur. "Blurred Bloundaries, Opulent Nature, and Sensuous Flesh: Changing Technological Styles in Venetian Painting, 1480-1520." Studies in the History of Art 45 (1993): 212-213.
1995
Humphrey, Peter. Painting in Venice. New Haven, 1995: 144-146, col. fig. 104.
1996
Tansey, Richard G. and Fred S. Kleiner. Gardner's Art Through the Ages. 10th ed. Fort Worth, 1996: 776-777, color fig. 23.57.
1997
Goffen, Rona. Titian's Women, 1997, no. 67, repro.
1997
Wilkins, David G. and Bernard Schultz and Katheryn M. Linduff. Art Past-Art Present, New York, 1997, no. 6-3, repro.
1998
Cheney, Liana de Girolami. "Love and Death." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art, edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 1:527.
1998
Gibson, Sarah S. "Bacchnalia/Orgy." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art. Edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 1:100.
2002
Mack, Rosamund E. Bazaar to Piazza: Islamic Trade and Italian Art, 1300-1600. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 2002: 105-106, fig. 106.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 84-85, no. 61, color repro.
2008
Giovanni Bellini. Exh. cat. by Mauro Lucco and Giovanni Carlo Federico Villa. Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, 2008-2009. Milan, 2008: 52 fig. 1 (detail), 61-64, fig. 9, 99 fig. 13 (detail), 306, 308.
2013
Campbell, Stephen J. and Michael W. Cole. Italian Renaissance Art. New York, 2013: 402-403, color fig. 13.46.

Conservation Notes

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