Giovanni Bellini was born in Venice around 1430 and was one of the greatest and most influential artists of the Italian Renaissance. He came from a family of artists. His father was Jacopo Bellini, an artist, and Giovanni and his brother Gentile trained under him. His sister married another great Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna. Giovanni had a long and prolific career living to the age of 85, during which he transformed Venice into a centre of artistic excellence which rivaled Rome and Florence as established centres of art. Venetian painting rose to prominence during his time through his use of colour, light and atmosphere. Bellini was a master of portraiture and today’s art display is one of his most famous works of portraiture, Doge Leonardo Loredan.
This portrait hangs in the National Gallery in London. Bellini completed this painting around 1502. This formal portrait of the Doge at the beginning of his rule shows the hat, called a corno, which was worn over a linen cap. His robe is made of luxurious, gold-threaded damask and is decorated with ornate buttons which were part of the official wardrobe. This was a traditional style of portraiture for incumbent rulers of the time. The style of this portrait is similar to the style of sculpted portrait busts which were often inspired by Roman sculpture. Bellini’s signature can be seen below on the parapet in the form of a cartellino. A cartellino being a piece of parchment or paper painted illusionistically, often as though attached to a wall or parapet in a painting, commonly with the artist’s name or that of the sitter.