Friday, February 7, 2020


Portrait of the Doge Leonardo Loredan
Giovanni Bellini
National Gallery, London

Giovanni Bellini’s Revelatory Portrait of the Doge Leonardo Loredan

La Serenissima (Venezia), that universally beloved city, is drowning. I have visited five times in my life and hope to go back many more times. Please complete the barriers surrounding the Lido !

This post is to honor Venezia and its Doges. 
What is a Doge, you ask? The Doge was the chief magistrate and leader of the Republic of Venice between 726 and 1797. 

The Doge of Venice (Venetian: Doxe de Venexia Italian: Doge di Venezia [ˈdɔːdʒe di veˈnɛttsja]; derive from the Latin term, dūx, "military leader"), translated as Duke (compare the Italian Duca). 

Giovanni Bellini’s iconic depiction of one of Venezia’s most powerful Doges, Leonardo Loredan, captures the power and control of these Venetian rulers, as well as the awesome responsibility they bore for their empire and citizens. 

Giovanni Bellini is justifiably admired for his exquisite Madonnas. He was also one of the great official portraitists of his time.. 

The esteemed art historian John Pope-Hennessy described Giovanni Bellini as "the  greatest fifteenth-century official portraitist", adding that "the tendency towards ideality that impaired Bellini’s private portraits here stood him in good stead, and enabled him to codify, with unwavering conviction, the official personality.”

I have been discussing side bias in portraiture of late, and again here, the artist has chosen to depict the left face of the subject. 
However, in this extraordinary portrait, the light is coming from the Subject’s Right side (the Left side of the painting), so that even though the Left  side of the Doge’s face is featured, it is relative shadow.
Why would that be? What hidden metaphors are we missing? Bellini was a master of light and color. Nothing here is random.

Portrait of the Doge Leonardo Loredan
Giovanni Bellini
NG, London

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