BELLINI, Giovanni
(b. ca. 1426, Venezia, d. 1516, Venezia)

Portrait of a Young Man in Red

Oil and tempera on panel, 32 x 26 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

From the 1470s, and simultaneously with his intense sacred output, Bellini had been engaged in work as a portraitist (in fact the Portrait of Jörg Fugger, the first known dated work by Bellini, is of 1474); although not particularly prolific, this activity was highly significant in terms of its results. The influence of Antonello da Messina in this field was highly evident in some instances. The Portrait of a Young Man in Red of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, datable to between 1485 and 1490, is one of the clearest examples of this, even though the psychological rapport between the person portrayed and the spectator is less immediate than in Antonello da Messina.

Although the concept and design of this portrait, considered to be among the finest of late quattrocento portraits extant, are derived from a Flemish prototype, the monumental simplicity of design, impersonal mood, and generalized surfaces betray the classical traditions of Italy.