BELLINI, Italian family of painters

Italian family of artists. Primarily painters, the Bellini were arguably the most important of the many families that played so vital a role in shaping the character of Venetian art. They were largely responsible for introducing the Renaissance style into Venetian painting, and, more effectively than the rival Vivarini family, they continued to dominate painting in Venice throughout the second half of the 15th century.

Jacopo Bellini was trained under Gentile da Fabriano, and by c. 1440 he had a thriving studio in Venice. More important than his paintings are his two surviving sketchbooks, which contain nearly 300 drawings. He was the father-in-law of Andrea Mantegna. His son Gentile Bellini inherited his father's sketchbooks and took over as head of the studio. His most important extant works are two huge canvases, Procession of the Relic of the True Cross (1496) and Miracle at the Bridge of San Lorenzo (1500), depicting scenes of contemporary Venetian life. Gentile's brother Giovanni Bellini (called Giambellino) was the greatest and most prolific artist of the family. He transformed Venice into a Renaissance centre rivaling Florence and Rome. Giovanni was an early master of oil painting. Primarily a religious painter, he also excelled at portraits. Titian and Giorgione were probably trained in his workshop.

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