Great landscapes: Giovanni Bellini

Three years ago, the Frick Collection in New York put back on show Bellini’s St Francis in the Desert, which had been originally bought about 100 years ago, and hung thereafter in Frick’s living room, now a museum. The painting itself is from about 530 years ago. Since it was first put on public display it has developed a remarkable mystique, to quote writer Phil Klay in a recent FT interview “The first time I saw it I was so moved I could hardly speak.” 

It doesn’t quite have that effect on me, but it’s still a magnificent work. The linearity of the rocks and shapes reminds me of Mantegna, but the compositional brilliance and the colours take it to another plane. This New York Times piece is a superb introduction to the painting. Here is a giant jpeg of it that can be explored, and here is an excellent YouTube video delving into its details.

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