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.
lower right on wooden tub: joannes bellinus venetus / p MDXIIII
Probably commissioned by Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara [d. 1534); 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; Aldobrandini heirs, until the line became extinct in 1760; 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; 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, 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 16 June 1916 to (Thomas Agnew & Sons, London) on joint account with (Arthur J. Sulley and Co., London); inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, after purchase in 1921 by funds of the estate; gift 1942 to NGA.
Associated NamesAgnew & Sons, Ltd., Thomas
Aldobrandini Borghese Pamphilj, Olimpia
Aldobrandini, Ippolita, Cardinal
Aldobrandini, Paolo Borghese
Aldobrandini, Pietro, Cardinal
Borghese Aldobrandini, Giovan Battista
Camuccini, Giovanni Battista, Baron Vincenzo
Este, Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso I d'
Este, Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso II d'
Este, Duke of Ferrara, Cesare d'
Este, Duke of Ferrara, Ercole II d'
Northumberland, Algernon George Percy, 6th Duke of
Northumberland, Algernon Percy, 4th Duke of
Northumberland, George Percy, 5th Duke of
Northumberland, Henry George Percy, 7th Duke of
Pamphilj Aldobrandini, Giovan Battista
Saverio, Count Cabral, Antonio Giacinto
Sulley & Co., Arthur J.
Widener, Joseph E.
- British Institution, London, 1856, no. 48, as The Gods feasting on the Fruits of the Earth.
- Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1920, unnumbered catalogue.
- Tiziano [NGA title: Titian: Prince of Painters], Palazzo Ducale, Venice; National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1990-1991, no. 19, repro.
- Titian, The National Gallery, London; Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2003, no. 15, repro.
- 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.
- Mantegna and Bellini, The National Gallery, London; Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 2018-2019.
- Hartshorne, Rev. C.H. A Guide to Alnwick Castle. London, 1865: 62.
- 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.
- Valentiner, Wilhelm R., ed. Unknown Masterpieces in Public and Private Collections. London, 1930: n.p., pl. 18.
- 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.
- Tietze, Hans. Meisterwerke europäischer Malerei in Amerika. Vienna, 1935: 73, repro. (English ed., Masterpieces of European Painting in America. New York, 1939: 73, repro.).
- 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.
- 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.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Widener Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1948 (reprinted 1959): 14, repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
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- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 24, color repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 45.
- 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.
- 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.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 144, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 12, as by Giovanni Bellini.
- 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.
- National Gallery of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. Washington, 1968: 5, repro., as by Giovanni Bellini.
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- Sutton, Denys. "Robert Langton Douglas. Part III." Apollo 109 (June 1979): 431-431 [149-150].
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- Bull, David and Plesters, Joyce. "The Feast of the Gods: Conservation, Examination, and Interpretation." Studies in the History of Art 40 (1990).
- Gingold, Diane J., and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 91-92, 164-165, 200-201, color repro.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 198, 203, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 31, repro.
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