(b. ca. 1400, Venezia, d. 1470, Venezia)

St Bernardino da Siena

Tempera on wood, 30 x 21 cm
Private collection

Jacopo Bellini had more than one opportunity to observe St Bernardino (1380-1444) and hear him preach. His portrait gives us a close-up view of the saint who stands before a velvet cloth decorated with thistle leaves and Christ's monogram. The saint's mouth is open, displaying three small teeth, and his eyes are directed downward toward a crucifix. The saint is shown as a living, speaking presence, perhaps the first such portrait of the Renaissance.

The Sienese preacher St Bernardino, a prominent figure in the reform branch of the Franciscan order known as the Observants, was widely portrayed. In addition to a death mask, there are medals, standing and bust-length painted depictions, terracotta busts and statues, and engravings. Following his canonization in 1450, he was shown repeatedly in altarpieces.