San Zaccaria Altarpiece 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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Giovanni Bellini, the famous Italian Renaissance painter created the San Zaccaria Altarpiece in 1505 using oil on wood.

In 1648, a painter and writer called Carlo Ridolfi mentioned that the work was a large panel that was commissioned in memory of Pietro Cappello, who was a Venetian diplomat and politician. This is one of Bellini’s art piece that shows how Giorgione influenced his work during his last days as a painter.

The painting depicts a sacred conversation where Madonna and child are enthroned. Alongside, are four saints, St. Jerome, St. Lucy, St. Catherine of Alexandria, and St. Peter who are positioned symmetrically on both sides of the canvas, while a musician angel is on a step.

In this painting, Bellini introduces some side opening that is inspired by Alvise Vivarini Altarpiece which used to be in Belluno. The light and colours in this painting show the new acceptance of Giorgione’s mood style and colour. The painting is a representation of a sacred conversation between the saints, and sometimes with the audience. Bellini depicted a great detail about the delicacy, realistic forms, vibrant colours, and architectural landscape the San Zaccaria painting.

The mood in the painting is one of contemplation as all figures stand beside the Virgin Mary and the child as the angel uses the violin to serenade the figures. In Bellini’s painting, he used a composition that represents the Renaissance tradition of grouping figures in a pyramid format. The Virgin and the Child are at the apex, as they are elevated by the throne. This is a great representation of how architecture is used to create space, where architecture is positioned at the frontal part of the open space.

Bellini managed to paint a fictive architecture to bring about realism, and a high degree of saturated colours. Visitors who visit the church to look at the painting can experience the real depiction of all the holy figures through what looks like a window in the wall, while it is the actual painting. There are many Madonnas with saints that have been painted but none has been able to showcase such dignity and repose as the San Zaccaria Altarpiece. Currently, the painting is located in the church of San Zaccaria in Venice.