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Six women, eight men, two satyrs, and one child gather in pairs and trios in a loose row that spans the width of this painting, against a landscape with craggy rocks, cliffs, and trees in this nearly square painting. Most of the people face us, and the men, women, and child have pale skin while the two satyrs, who have men’s torsos and furry goat’s legs, have darker, olive complexions. Most of the men wear voluminous, knee-length togas wrapped in short robes in shades of white, topaz blue, grass green, coral orange, or rose pink. Most of the women wear long, dress-like garments in tones of shell pink, apricot orange, or lapis blue over white sleeves. For all but one woman, their garments have fallen off one shoulder to reveal a round, firm breast. To our left of the group, the child kneels at a tapped barrel, filling a clear glass pitcher with amber colored liquid. The child’s blond hair is wrapped in a ring of green leaves, and they wear a cobalt blue jumper over a white shirt with blousy sleeves. Behind the child, an older, bearded man wraps one arm around a gray donkey. His right hand, on our left, gestures toward the metal urn a satyr balances on his head to our left. A group of three men and one woman sit and recline around a second satyr to our right of the donkey. The satyr balances a wide, flaring blue-and-white dish on his head and one woman standing next to him holds a similar bowl and looks toward him. In front of the satyr, a man wearing a smooth, rounded, metal cap and holding a staff with intwined snakes at the top reclines and looks toward our right at a woman sleeping on the far side of the group. Behind him, a bearded man wearing a crown of laurel leaves, next to a large black bird, drinks from a cup. Next to this group, at the center, a man sitting on the ground looks toward a woman kneeling next to him, as he places his hand between her upper thighs. She looks toward the sleeping woman. Behind this pair, a nude, bearded man, with a ring of leaves around his head sits in the shadows facing our right, head bent as he plays a flute with one hand. Two women, one holding a jug on her head, stand to our right of the musician as a third woman in this area attends to a man sitting on the ground and drinking from a shallow, metal cup. His other hand holds the neck of an instrument resembling a violin, which is seen through the legs of the final standing man, to our right. The standing man hunches over and looks down at the sleeping woman, who reclines with her head resting in her left hand, on our right. One of her knees is bent and the other leg extends straight in front of her. The standing man lifts the hem of her dress as he looks at her sleeping face. Several objects are strewn on the rocky, dirt ground in front of the group, including a wide, wooden bucket with a piece of paper affixed to its front to our right, a glass goblet, a pitchfork, a large blue and white ceramic dish filled with grapes and small, yellow fruits, and an overturned cup near the center. Cliff-like, craggy rocks rise suddenly behind the group to our left, filling much of the sky opposite a tall grove of leafy, dark green trees to our right. A few puffy white clouds float across the vivid blue sky. The slip of paper on the barrel has been inscribed, “joannes bellinus venetus p MDXIIII.”

Giovanni Bellini, Titian, The Feast of the Gods, 1514/1529, oil on canvas, Widener Collection, 1942.9.1

Canceled—The Old Master: Giovanni Bellini’s Last Works

  • Sunday, May 10, 2020
  • 2:00 p.m.
  • East Building Auditorium

As a precautionary measure in light of COVID-19, the Gallery has canceled this event. We hope to welcome you to the Gallery soon and thank you for your support.

David Alan Brown, former curator and head of Italian and Spanish paintings, National Gallery of Art. A book signing of Giovanni Bellini: The Last Works follows.