VIRGIN AND CHILD – Bellini 1510
The Madonna and Child is an oil painting on wood (50×41 cm) by Giovanni Bellini, dating back to around 1510 and kept in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. The pose of the virgin, who is holding the Child with her left arm and has placed the palm of her right hand under his foot, is also found in another two paintings by Giovanni Bellini. The panel in the Borghese Gallery is more lyrical in character as may be noted in the landscape on the right, which reveals that the artist, now in the final stage of his career, has been influenced by the innovation’s introduced by Giorgione.
When the master painted the work he was about eighty years old and was already established as one of the most prestigious artists of the Venetian Renaissance, capable of continually updating himself to the latest trends.
The work is generally compared with the Madonna and Child of Brera from 1510, the Madonna del Prato from around 1505 and the Madonna with Child from Detroit in 1509.
Description and style
The monumental figure of Mary seated on a throne dominates the landscape on this side of a green curtain, with the Child seated on one of his knees over a balustrade in the foreground where a cartouche with the artist’s signature is hung. According to some, such as Olivari, the work is Bellini’s last fully autograph Madonna and Child, while Heinemann Dussler considered it more in isolation from a workshop.
Trials of autography would be the dilated forms of the sacred group, with a curvilinear enlargement of the volumes and a chromatic intensity, now oriented towards tonalism, typical of the artist’s last phase. Mother and son do not look at each other, but their bond is underlined by the intertwining of gestures, with Mary who no longer closes the child to herself, but gives him quietly to the spectator’s adoration.
Although it lacks that direct interpenetration between sacred subjects and background, with the recovery of the curtain as an inter-space, the landscape is however set on atmospheric values of tonal painting, updated to the novelties of Giorgione.
The landscape, with its warm brightness, is punctuated by some minutely portrayed figures, which derive from the late Gothic tradition, learned from his father Jacopo. Among the hills that are lost in the distance you see two peasants on a road and a fortress. The result is a tidy and unified landscape of golden light, which also invests the sacred group, giving unity and harmony to the whole.