Bellini, Giovanni; Catena, Vincenzo

Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Peter

circa 1470-1531

Place Made
Italy: Venice
Oil on panel
framed: 43 x 54 in (109.22 x 137.16 cm)
Credit Line
The Samuel H. Kress Collection
Accession #

The Bellini family of painters pioneered new approaches to the altarpiece in Venice at the end of the 15th century and played a central role in the use of oil painting in Italy. The close cropping and the tight grouping of figures at the picture plane illustrates their distinct approach to devotional (or personal) altarpieces.

The lavish, red tapestry with a flower motif hanging behind the figures serves to isolate, honor and highlight the static Virgin and Child, and adds an element of movement. The curvilinear writing on the hanging’s border mimics the Kufic script of early Arabic inscriptions typically included on the borders of metalware made in the eastern Mediterranean. This adaptation of traditional carpet patterns references Venice’s position as Europe’s port to the East and, by extension Jerusalem as location of the origins of the church.