Giovanni Bellini, who came from an important family of painters, was the son of Jacopo Bellini and the younger brother of Gentile as well as the brother-in law of Andrea Mantegna. In 1483 he became official painter of the Republic of Venice, and together with his pupils Giorgione and Titian he was one of the founders of the Venetian High Renaissance. He viewed himself almost exclusively as a painter of religious subjects. There are only a few paintings by Bellini in which he deals with mythological themes, and his refusal to paint such a work for the Mantuan patron of the arts Isabella d’Este is legendary. Thus the Vienna portrait of a young woman, which he painted in 1515, a year before his death, is such an exception. The nude figure is integrated into a system of horizontal and vertical features. She is sitting on a bench that has been covered with a precious carpet, and behind her is a dark-green surface on which a mirror has been hung. On the left a view of a Venetian landscape gives the painting depth. By using the same colours in the principal motif and landscape, Bellini connects the two spheres, and the basic mood of the painting is gentle and unified. In her right hand the young woman is holding another mirror, which is a symbol of vanitas on the one hand and an attribute of Venus Pudica on the other. Using the device of two mirrors, Bellini enables the observer to see two views of the woman’s head from a single vantage point, a perspective possible only in painting. In addition, he thus enhances the independence of the woman’s action from the view of the beholder – although the physical distance is very small. In his signature (“Johannes bellinus faciebat M.D.X.V”) on the small slip of paper on the right, Bellini is using a formulation by Apelles, considered the greatest painter of antiquity, and handed down by Pliny. This is further evidence of the basic theme of the work: the beauty and creative power of painting. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010


  • Title: Young Woman at Her Toilette
  • Creator: Giovanni Bellini
  • Creator Lifespan: ca. 1433 - 1516
  • Creator Nationality: italian
  • Creator Gender: male
  • Creator Death Place: Venice
  • Creator Birth Place: Venice
  • Date Created: 1515
  • Style: Italian Renaissance
  • Provenance: Collection of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm
  • Physical Dimensions: w783 x h629 x d30 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 97
  • Artist Biography: Writing from Italy in 1506, Albrecht Dürer observed that Giovanni Bellini was "very old, but still the best in painting." Giovanni created the soft, luminous art of saturated color that brought Venetian painting into the Renaissance and helped Venice rival Florence as the center of artistic production. His father Jacopo headed a successful workshop where Giovanni and his brother Gentile painted until about 1470. The precisely organized, linear style of brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna was an early influence as well. Around 1475 the Sicilian Antonello da Messina brought oil painting to Venice, and Giovanni soon switched to the new technique. His vision remained contemplative and poetic, but his style became warmer and more luminous. Giovanni showed that landscape could establish mood rather than just acting as a backdrop, and he integrated figures harmoniously into his landscapes.Giovanni's large workshop produced altarpieces, devotional works, and sensitive, compelling portraits, as well as highly influential half-length Madonnas. Through his workshop's activity, Giovanni directly or indirectly influenced the Venetian painters of his and the next generation, including Sebastiano del Piombo, Lorenzo Lotto, and Vittore Carpaccio. His work also deeply impressed Fra Bartolommeo, who visited Venice in 1507. He spent his career exploring new ideas, including those of such illustrious pupils as Titian and Giorgione. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Wood

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