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


Leadpoint, 290 x 427 mm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Jacopo Bellini's extraordinary compositional imagination is seen in his surviving drawings, which were made on sheets of parchment or paper that were then bound into drawing books. They were probably intended to be model books that could be used in his workshop and by his descendants - as indeed they were - and also as a record of his style and attainments. The two such books that survive, one of drawings on paper in the British Museum, the other, on parchment, in the Louvre are datable c. 1450; both include subjects that range from the scriptural, mythological, and archeological to the fantastic. The books were inherited by Gentile Bellini, who had his father's rubbed and faded leadpoint drawings in the Paris volume retouched in pen; those in London remain in leadpoint.

Jacopo's drawings make it clear that he had learned the principles of Albertian perspective without losing his northern Italian interest in a panoramic conception of nature. His strict adherence to perspective occasionally results in absurdly rapid perspective recessions, but his adoption of the system's single point of view enables him to place human figures in a reasonable relationship to architectural and natural space.

The Nativity scene is from the model book in the Louvre.