* 1430 Venedig
† 1516 Venedig
Giovanni Bellini (Giambellino), next to Giorgione and Titian one of the founding fathers and luminaries of Venetian Renaissance painting, was presumably born in the first half of the 1430s as the illegitimate son of Jacopo Bellini. His exact date of birth is unknown and, according to Vasaris’ artist biographies, is dated around 1426. Since Giovanni Bellini (Giambellino) is younger than Gentile, his brother from his father’s side, this date can hardly be true.
The first signature by Giovanni Bellini (Giambellino) was executed in 1460, together with his father and brother. A good deal later the first public commission followed: in 1479 the Great Council of Venice commissioned Giovanni Bellini (Giambellino) to execute the (not preserved) decorations in the town hall of the Palazzo Ducale – a late appraisal of the illegitimate Bellini offspring. In 1483 Giovanni Bellini (Giambellino) was even appointed the republic’s official painter by the Collegio, which meant he did not have to pay fees to the "fraglia dei pittori".
Giovanni Bellini’s (Giambellino’s) son Alvise must have been born before 1489, but, just like his wife Ginevra, his son did not live to see the turn of the century. At that time Bellini was an old and famous artist. One of his main works, the Sacra Conversazione in San Zaccaria in Venice, was not signed by Giovanni Bellini (Giambellino) before 1505.
This picture, by means of which he created nothing less than a new type, was also observed by Albrecht Dürer. The Nuremberg artist wrote in a letter from Venice to Willibald Pirkheimer in 1506, that “Giovanni Bellini (Giambellino) may be very old, but still one of the city’s best artist”.
Giovanni Bellini’s (Giambellino’s) work, which is dominated by religious themes, draws a bow from early Gothic works to a late work which is of a dense atmospheric character. Concentrated, calm compositions of an outstanding realism characterize his oeuvre. An episode from 1497 tells the same story: The margrave Francesco Gonzaga left the choice of background for a painting to Bellini, as Giovanni Bellini (Giambellino) earlier refused to depict Paris in the back of a painting – explaining he had never actually been there.
Giovanni Bellini (Giambellino) was also a master of hand drawings, sketches and in miniature painting. He died in his hometown in 1516.