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

Portrait of Fra Teodoro of Urbino as St Dominic

Oil on canvas, 63 x 50 cm
National Gallery, London

In 1515 Bellini signed and dated the portrait of Fra Teodoro of Urbino. The old prelate appears here as St Dominic, solemnly clothed in a black robe. The unusual flowered curtaining and the customary three-quarter pose do not diminish the physiognomical impact of his face, which is actually accentuated by the meagre colour and by the far-away leftward gaze.

In this painting Bellini gave St Dominic the specific features of an actual person, thereby blurring the boundaries between portrait and saintly image. The subject can be characterised either as Fra Teodoro in the guise of St Dominic or as St Dominic with the features of Fra Teodoro.

This portrait is Giovanni Bellini's "farewell" of the genre, this last known portrait was painted more than four decades after the portrait of Jörg Fugger. The evolution of Venetian portraiture in the intervening period - from rather static, bust-length pictures to figures shown almost half-length and with more dynamic poses and including the subject's hands - can thus be traced in the work of this single artist.