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.
Labels by famous authors
“In 1945 freedom exploded in the world and liberated souls from the tragedy of war.In 1949 Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar in Venice, in honour of the peace, created a drink that combined the freshness and colour of peaches with the vivacity of sparkling wine.That year the Palazzo Ducale hosted a Giambellino exhibition, and Giuseppe thought to link the name of the drink with the fame of the great painter. He called it a “Bellini”, which continues to celebrate art and freedom to this day.”
“Gentile Bellini, invited by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II who conquered Constantinople, was in my town in 1479. Then, as no one in my part of the world saw things as the Venetian artist did with such accuracy, his sultans and scribes are dear to me. Yet here is an invented Orient, more St. Mark’s square than the real Istanbul but for the obelisk, cloaked women, camels, giraffe and the Mamluk architecture. I am charmed by this curious mix of East and West and want to continue looking. That is why I identify with the onlookers with enormous headgear watching from the terraces.”
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St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria
Gentile Bellini and Giovanni Bellini
1504 - 7
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