Portrait of a Humanist Giovanni Bellini Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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This painting measures 35 cm by 28 cm. It's an oil on panel painting, created between 1475 and 1480. It’s found today in the Pinoteca Gallery in Sforza Castle, Milan.

This gallery houses the work of some of Renaissance Italy's finest painters. What's so significant about Portrait of a Humanist by Giovanni Bellini? The significance lies in the fact that the painting epitomises the age in which it appeared.

The 15th century featured the flowering of the Renaissance movement. It also saw the growth of philosophical thought. The era of church-controlled thinking was nearing the end. A new age had begun. Art was pushing the boundaries. It found newer and more innovative ways of creative expression. Human society was changed forever.

Who was Peter Luder?

Peter Luder (1415-1472) became Professor of Latin in Germany's Heidelberg University in 1456. He was the first to introduce humanist ideas at Heidelberg University. The humanist movement flourished during the Renaissance. The Renaissance featured renewed interest in classical learning. There was major development in visual arts. Humanism was a movement of philosophical thought which put man at the centre of creation. Humanity and human needs were now central to everything, rather than traditional religious beliefs. Humanistic thought appears to have reached Germany rather late. But Peter Luder was instrumental in introducing this movement in his home country.

Who was Giovanni Bellini?

Giovanni Bellini was a Venetian painter from a family of painters. He received early art instruction from his father, Jacopo Bellini. Like other Renaissance painters, he loved to innovate and develop his skills. He painted with oils and tempera. He was passionate about structure. His work featured bold outlines and strong contours. His main subjects were figures and landscapes. He imbued many of his works with religious fervour.

A Fusion of Art and Humanism

In this painting, Giovanni Bellini paints Peter Luder, the humanist thinker. It seems that humanist thinking and Renaissance art have fused. Peter Luder looks handsome, but with a human rather than a divine appearance. He appears to wear a classical robe. Bellini the painter stresses the magnificence as well as the humanity of this man. This painting features earthy humanity rather than divine glory. It shows the painter Giovanni Bellini as the Renaissance artist supreme. One who appreciates the human as well as the divine.