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

San Giobbe Altarpiece

c. 1487
Oil on panel, 471 x 258 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

This painting (Madonna with the Child, Saints and Angels) was executed for the church of San Giobbe in Venice, originally over the second altar on the right of the church, completing, in an illusory way, with its own spatiality, the Lombardian architectural plan. When it appeared, it immediately became one of Bellini's most celebrated works. The datation is uncertain, however, it is assumed that this was the first altarpiece by Bellini painted with the new oil technique introduced by Antonello da Messina in Venice in 1475-76.

The altarpiece is one of the cornerstones of the artist's mature years. A coffered vault is a perspective introduction to the composition, which is supported at the sides by pillars similar to the real sculpted ones of the altar. The pillars flank a deep niche, which with its shady penumbra amplifies the space behind the holy group. Bellini conceived the painting as a coherent prolungation of the real space.

In it, the figures are arranged with monumentality and human warmth; the modelling is softened by the redefined blending of colours, which reflects dim crepuscular lights from the apsidial basin, depicted like a gold mosaic according to a visual and chromatic tradition associated with the basilical mosaics of San Marco.