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The Feast of the Gods

Giovanni Bellini, Titian1514 - 1529

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

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.

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Details

  • Title: The Feast of the Gods
  • Date Created: 1514 - 1529
  • Physical Dimensions: w1880 x h1702 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Widener Collection
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • painter: Giovanni Bellini and Titian
  • Theme: mythology, classical
  • School: Venetian
  • 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; to Vincenzo Camuccini [1771 1844], Rome, in 1796/1797; presumably by inheritance to Giovanni Battista, Baron Vincenzo Camuccini, Rome; sold 1855 through Antonio Giacinto Saverio, Count Cabral, Rome,[4] to Algernon Percy, 4th duke of Northumberland [d. 1865], Alnwick Castle, Northumberland; by inheritance to George Percy, 5th duke of Northumberland [d. 1867], Alnwick Castle; by inheritance to Algernon George Percy, 6th duke of Northumberland [d. 1899], Alnwick Castle; by inheritance to Henry George Percy, 7th duke of Northumberland [d. 1918], Alnwick Castle; sold 1916 to (Thomas Agnew & Sons, London) on joint account with (Arthur J. Sulley and Co., London);[5] inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, after purchase in 1922 by funds of the estate; 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] 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. [5] Although the painting was exhibited in 1920 as from the collection of Carl W. Hamilton, New York, he probably only had it on credit, as he had many paintings from Duveen on the same basis; the painting is not recorded as sold in Agnew's records until 1922; it was acquired and sold to Widener by Sulley.
  • 2nd Artist Name: Titian
  • 2nd Artist DeathDate: 1576
  • 2nd Artist BirthDate: 1490

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