The huge canvas adorned the reception room of the Scuola Grande di San Marco in Venice, one of the city’s most prestigious and powerful confraternities. It was commissioned from Gentile Bellini in 1504 but was left incomplete on the death of the artist in 1507. We do not know what stage the picture had reached, but it was finished by his brother Giovanni, who was requested to do so in Gentile’s will.
The attribution of the various parts of the work to each artist is still a matter of debate among scholars; however, the most widely held view assigns to Gentile the definition of the main lines of the scene, in which elements of Venetian architecture are superimposed on structures of clearly Mediterranean and Oriental derivation (for example the obelisks and the minarets of a mosque). These must have been familiar to the artist, who had been sent to work for Mehmed II at Constantinople in 1497.
Giovanni, on the other hand, was probably responsible for the intense portraits of the members of the confraternity in the group on the left.
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Saint Mark Preaching in a Square of Alexandria in Egypt
Gentile Bellini and Giovanni Bellini
OBJECT TYPE AND MATERIAL
Oil on canvas
cm 347 × 770
Work on display
By the same author
In the same date/era
In the same room