Jacopo Bellini’s eldest son, Gentile (1429-1507), was taught painting in the workshop of his father. He had no shortage of commissions, his talent as a portraitist revealed itself at an early age. Gentile’s career was spectacular. In 1469, he was appointed count palatine by Emperor Frederick III, and in 1479, at the age of fifty, the Republic of Venice sent him to Constantinople to paint the portrait of Sultan Mehmet II: a great honor. The famous portrait of this oriental monarch, conqueror of Byzantium, is now in the National Gallery, London. Mehmet “…could hardly understand,” wrote Vasari, “… how any mortal could possess the, as it were, divine skill of imitating nature so vividly.” Bellini returned, a whole year later, piled high with gifts and honors, including the title of “bey” (knight).
Next to portraiture, Gentile also excelled at large-scale historical scenes painted in the style of the early Venetian Renaissance: The Procession in St. Mark’s Square, dating from 1496, and The Recovery of the Relic of the True Cross at the Bridge of S. Lorenzo, dating from c.1500. There is nothing in Venice to equal these panels. The faithful and precise rendering of St. Mark’s Square and the medieval Bridge of S. Lorenzo makes him the forerunner of Canaletto. In terms of coloration Gentile remained within the boundaries of 15th-century traditions. Gentile’s most significant pupil and successor was Carpaccio.
The Art of the Italian Renaissance. Architecture. Sculpture. Painting. Drawing. Könemann. 1995.
Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999. (in Russian)
Venetian Painting in the Fifteenth Century: Jacopo, Gentile and Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna by Otto Pacht, Margareta Vyoral-Tschapka, Michael Pacht. Harvey Miller, 2003.
Venetian Narrative Painting in the Age of Carpaccio by Patricia Fortini Brown. Yale Univ Pr, 1988.