Transfiguration of Christ 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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The depiction of transfiguration of Christ by Giovanni Bellini comes with new information and contentious issues. The mountain where Jesus brought Peter, John and James is portrayed as a slight rise in the earth.

The mountain which generally illustrates a divine place of seclusion is reduced to a common area inhabited by people. From Giovanni's painting, a man is seen going about their daily routine of escorting cattle from the grazing land. If this specific part of the art was intended to show only the time of day, it could be misinterpreted to show the mountain as a common place where people reside. There are buildings which can be seen and this waters down the significance of the mountain from the original narration of transfiguration.

Jesus stands between the statures of Elijah and Moses from the Old Testament. The face of Christ is facing the clouds on the horizon and his hands wide open. From the picture, Jesus doesn't look like he is engaging Elijah and Moses verbally. The faces of Moses and Elijah bow to Christ symbolizing his supremacy. As opposed to the original narration in the bible, Bellini doesn’t represent this event to be supernatural. While the clothing of Christ is bright it does not glow, a sign of paranormal phenomena.

The three disciples Peter, James and John look astonished by the events which unfold before them. The disciples fall onto the ground in amazement. From the painting, the disciples were not aware of the events which would transpire in the mountain. The episode represented by Bellini fails to show the supernatural nature of the transfiguration of Christ. Jesus, Elijah and Moses are stepping on the ground and none of them is glowing. The sky looks normal for an evening and the people are going about their routine presents a common occurrence.

The foreground of Bellini’s picture shows a fence and a rocky rift before coming to the holy ground. The rift depictions a third party watching the events from a safe distance from the sacred ground. The typical sky fails to bring about a good picture of the miraculous event happening. The vegetation in the image does not depict the mountain well since there are a few trees while we expect many trees in the mountain.