Giovanni Bellini and Titian’s _The Feast of the Gods_ is one of the greatest Renaissance paintings in the United States by two fathers of Venetian art. In this illustration of a scene from Ovid's _Fasti_, the gods, with Jupiter, Neptune, and Apollo among them, revel in a wooded pastoral setting, eating and drinking, attended by nymphs and satyrs. According to the tale, the lustful Priapus, god of fertility, stealthily lifts the gown of the sleeping nymph Lotis, as seen in the painting. A moment later, he will be foiled by the braying of Silenus' ass and the assembled deities will laugh at Priapus' misadventure.

The _Feast_ was the first in a series of mythologies, or bacchanals, commissioned by Duke Alfonso d'Este to decorate the _camerino d'alabastro _(alabaster study) of his castle in Ferrara. Bellini completed it two years before his death in 1514. Years later, the Duke commissioned two reworkings of portions of Bellini’s canvas. Dosso Dossi made an initial alteration to the landscape at left and added the pheasant and bright green foliage to the tree at upper right. Most famously, Bellini’s student, Titian, made a second set of alterations, painting out Dosso’s landscape with the dramatic, mountainous backdrop now seen, leaving only Dosso’s pheasant intact. It is possible that Titian wished to harmonize the _Feast_ with the other, later paintings he also created for the _camerino_ at the Duke’s behest. The figures and elements of the bacchanal were untouched by the later artists and remain Bellini’s own. The original tonalities and intensity of the colors have recently been restored, and the painting has regained its sense of depth and spaciousness.


  • Title: The Feast of the Gods
  • Creator: Giovanni Bellini and Titian
  • Date Created: 1514/1529
  • Physical Dimensions: overall: 170.2 x 188 cm (67 x 74 in.) framed: 203.8 x 218.4 x 7.6 cm (80 1/4 x 86 x 3 in.)
  • Provenance: Probably commissioned by Alfonso I d'Este, Duke of Ferrara [d. 1534);[1] by inheritance to his son, Ercole II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara [d. 1559]; by inheritance to his son, Alfonso II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara [d. 1597]; by inheritance to his cousin, Cesare d'Este, Duke of Ferrara; confiscated 1598 from the Castello at Ferrara by Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini [d. 1621], Rome, when he was acting as Papal Legate and recorded in his inventory of 1603; by inheritance to his nephew, Cardinal Ippolito Aldobrandini [d. 1638], Rome, and recorded in his inventory of 1626; by inheritance to his niece, Olimpia Aldobrandini Borghese Pamphilj [d. 1681], Rome, and recorded in her pre-1665 inventory and 1682 posthumous inventory; by inheritance to her son, Giovan Battista Pamphilj Aldobrandini [d. 1710], Rome;[2] Aldobrandini heirs, until the line became extinct in 1760;[3] by inheritance 1769 to Paolo Borghese Aldobrandini [d. 1792], Rome; by inheritance to his nephew, Giovan Battista Borghese Aldobrandini [d. 1802], Rome; purchased 1796/1797 by Pietro Camuccini [1761-1833] for the collection of his brother, Vincenzo Camuccini [1771-1844], Rome;[4] presumably by inheritance to Vincenzo's son, Giovanni Battista Camuccini [1819-1904], Rome; sold 1853 with the entire Camuccini collection through Antonio Giacinto Saverio, Count Cabral, Rome,[5] to Algernon Percy, 4th duke of Northumberland [1792-1865], Alnwick Castle, Northumberland; by inheritance to his cousin, George Percy, 5th duke of Northumberland [1778-1867], Alnwick Castle; by inheritance to his son, Algernon George Percy, 6th duke of Northumberland [1810-1899], Alnwick Castle; by inheritance to his son, Henry George Percy, 7th duke of Northumberland 1846-1918], Alnwick Castle; sold 16 June 1916 to (Thomas Agnew & Sons, London) on joint account with (Arthur J. Sulley and Co., London);[6] inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, after purchase in 1921 by funds of the estate;[7] gift 1942 to NGA. [1] Possibly commissioned by his sister Isabella d'Este; final payment made to Bellini by Alfonso in 1514; painting located in Camerino d'Alabastro of the Castello until 1598. [2] Giovan was the son of Olimpia Aldobrandini by her second marriage, to Camillo Pamphili; upon his inheritance, Giovan changed his name to Aldobrandini. His brother Cardinal Benedetto [d. 1730] also inherited some paintings. [3] In 1760, the paintings were involved in a lawsuit between the Colonna and Borghese, and were settled on the second son of the head of the Borghese in 1769. [4] Jaynie Anderson, "The Provenance of Bellini's Feast of the Gods and a New/Old Interpretation," _Studies in the History of Art_ 45, Symposium Papers 25 (1993): 271. [5] Cabral was Northumberland's attorney in Rome; he negotiated the transaction with Camuccini; a seal with what is probably his coat-of-arms is on the back of the painting. See Anderson 1993, 269-270. [6] The painting is number J1755 in Agnew's records (see Thos. Agnew & Sons, Picture Stock Book, 1904-1933, Section 2 [which records paintings purchased jointly by Agnew and a partner]; NGA27/1/1/10, Research Centre, National Gallery, London; copy in NGA curatorial files; digitized and available at https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/research/research-centre/agnews-stock-books, accessed 17 May 2017). [7] Although the painting was exhibited in 1920 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as from the collection of Carl W. Hamilton, New York, he probably only had it on credit, as he had many paintings from Duveen Brothers, Inc. on the same basis. According to a history of the Widener collection written by Edith Standen, the Widener curator, Joseph Widener "would not have the Bellini listed as having passed through the Carl Hamilton Collection...because, he said, Mr. Hamilton never completed the payments on it." She also wrote that Widener "said the Duke of Northumberland tried to sell him the picture before World War I." (Handwritten manuscript and typed copy, Edith Standen Papers, Gallery Archives, National Gallery of Art, Washington; copy in NGA curatorial files.) The painting is not recorded as sold in Agnew's records until 1922 (see note 6). However, Arthur Sulley appears to have handled the sale to Widener. Sulley wrote to the collector about the painting in 1917, and his letter of 26 September 1921 to Widener states that the painting will be delivered around 10 October 1921 (both letters in NGA curatorial files).
  • Medium: oil on canvas

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