Colnaghi Foundation Journal 03 - Page 127



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Reflections on the date and impact of Giovanni Bellini’s Saint Vincent Ferrer Polyptych
Reflections on the date and impact of Giovanni Bellini’s Saint Vincent Ferrer Polyptych
N OTES
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Jennifer Fletcher has been a great friend since 2008,
when she marked my MA dissertation. Since then,
I have learned a great deal from her and enjoyed a
shared love for the work of Giovanni Bellini. We had
the chance to look at the Saint Vincent Ferrer Polyptych
together on one occasion, which I remember with
great pleasure. There have been several monographic
studies and catalogue entries on the polyptych, where
further references to its critical history can be found:
Franca Zava Boccazzi, La Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e
Paolo in Venezia (Venice: Ferdinando Ongania Editore,
1965), pp. 145-153; Augusto Gentili and Fabrizio
Torella, Giovanni Bellini. Il polittico di San Vincenzo Ferrer
(Venice: Arsenale Editrice, 1985); Rona Goffen,
“Giovanni Bellini and the Altarpiece of St. Vincent
Ferrer,” in Renaissance Studies in Honor of Craig Hugh
Smyth, eds. Andrew Morrogh et al. (Florence: Giunti
Barbèra, 1985), pp. 277-285; Alessandro Conti, “Echi
di Marco Zoppo nel Polittico di San Zanipolo,” in
Marco Zoppo: Cento 1433-1478 Venezia, ed. Berenice
Giovannucci Vigi (Bologna: Nuova Alfa Editoriale,
1993), pp. 97-106; Sandro Sponza, “L’altare e la
pala di San Vincenzo Ferrer: dubbi e problemi,”
Quaderni della Soprintendenza per i Beni Artistici e Storici
di Venezia 20 (1996): pp. 30-36, 50-53; Sandro
Sponza in Il colore ritrovato. Bellini a Venezia, eds. Rona
Goffen and Giovanna Nepi Scirè, exh. cat. (Venice:
Gallerie dell’Accademia, 2000), no. 27, pp. 145-149;
Emanuela Zucchetta, “Il Polittico di San Vincenzo
Ferrer. Chiesa dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo,” in Bellini a
Venezia. Sette opere indagate nel loro contesto, eds. Gianluca
Poldi and Giovanni C.F. Villa (Cinisello Balsamo:
Silvana Editoriale, 2008), pp. 31-51; Lorenzo Finocchi
Ghersi in La basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Pantheon
della Serenissima, ed. Giuseppe Pavanello (Venice:
Marcianum Press, 2012), no. 47, pp. 208-213.
Loredana Olivato, Provvedimenti della Repubblica Veneta
per la salvaguardia del patrimonio pittorico nei secoli XVII e
XVIII (Venice: Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed
Arti, 1974), pp. 144-145, doc. 44.
Conti, “Echi di Marco Zoppo,” pp. 102-103, n. 15,
argues that the lost God the Father might be identified
in the painting today in Pesaro, Musei Civici (inv.
Polidori 3999). Conti’s argument is that this later
painting by Bellini was added when a new frame
would have been carved for the polyptych at the
beginning of the sixteenth century. This hypothesis
clashes with the fact that the painting today in Pesaro
was seen in Bologna, Malvezzi collection, by Marcello
Oretti most probably earlier than 1777, the year when
a God the Father was removed from the polyptych in
Venice. On the Pesaro painting, see (even if Conti’s
hypothesis is not mentioned): Giovanni C.F. Villa in
Giovanni Bellini, eds. Mauro Lucco and Giovanni C.F.
Villa, exh. cat. (Rome: Scudiere del Quirinale, 2008),
no. 48, pp. 288-289 .
The fact that the predella was painted on a single
support was only discovered on the occasion of the
restoration undertaken in late 1990s; see Sponza in
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Goffen and Nepi Scirè, Il colore, p. 145. This feature
was cited as evidence for the frame being original:
in any case, it proves that the original frame would
have had a similar shape to the current one. The
scenes in the predella were identified through
comparison with the written sources and early
biographies of Saint Vincent Ferrer by Gentili and
Torella, Giovanni Bellini, pp. 22-28.
The predella has in the past been attributed to
the little known Lauro Padovano on the basis of
comparison with another predella depicting the stories
of Drusiana and Saint John the Evangelist (Munich,
Schloss Berchtesgaden Wittelsbacher Ausgleichsfonds,
inv. B I 34), originally part of the Saint John the
Evangelist altarpiece in the church of the Carità in
Venice, where it was famously seen and described
by Marcantonio Michiel, who attributed it to Lauro
Padovano. For the correct attribution to Giovanni
Bellini and chronology in the mid-1450s of the
Berchtesgaden predella, which is in fact stylistically
very different to the predella of the Saint Vincent Ferrer
Polyptych, see Luciano Bellosi in Andrea Mantegna, eds.
Giovanni Agosti and Dominique Thiébaut, exh. cat.
(Paris: Musèe du Louvre, 2008: Italian ed. Milan:
Officina Libraria, 2008), no. 33, pp. 124-125.
“quell’altra di San Vincenzo, San Rocco, & San
Sebastiano.” Francesco Sansovino, Venetia citta
nobilissima et singolare (Venice: Jacopo Sansovino,
1581), p. 23v.
Roberto Longhi, “Piero dei Franceschi e lo sviluppo
della pittura veneziana,” (1914) in Scritti giovanili: 19121922, 2 vols. (Florence: Sansoni, 1961), I, pp. 61-106.
“dalla destra v’è la Palla di S. Tomaso di Gio: Bellino,
indi quella di San Vincenzo del detto autore,” Pietro
Antonio Pacifico, Cronica veneta, overo Succinto racconto
di tutte le cose più cospicue, & antiche della Città di Venetia
(Venice: Domenico Lovisa, 1697), p. 177; Pietro
Antonio Pacifico, Cronica veneta sacra e profana, o sia Un
Compendio di tutte le cose più illustri ed antiche della Città di
Venezia (Venice: Francesco Pitteri, 1736), p. 167. In a
recent volume on the church, Pacifico’s description of
the polyptych is misinterpreted as referring to a lost
altarpiece in the sacristy, a space that is described a
few lines earlier in Pacifico’s text: “Elenco delle opere
rimosse o perdute,” in La basilica dei Santi Giovanni e
Paolo, ed. Giuseppe Pavanello (Venice: Marcianum
Press, 2013), p. 502.
Gino Fogolari, “Disegni per gioco e incunaboli
pittorici del Giambellino,” in Dedalo. Rassegna d’arte
11/1 (1932): pp. 382-390. In this article, Fogolari
also published the extremely interesting drawings
that appear on the back of most of the panels of the
polyptych.
Venice, Archivio di Stato: Santi Giovanni e Paolo,
P.X. nn. 145, 188. The misunderstanding about
the wooden statue occurs in Gentili and Torella,
Giovanni Bellini, p. 15.
Fogolari, “Disegni per gioco,” pp. 389, 390, n. 9.
“1454. Si edificò in codesta nostra Chiesa L’Altare
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à S. Vincenzo Ferraro,” Rocco Curti, Cronaca della
chiesa e del convento dei padri Predicatori dei santi Giovanni e
Paolo in Venezia, unpublished manuscript in Vicenza,
Biblioteca Bertoliana: Ms. 1305. The existence of this
manuscript was first indicated by Goffen, “Giovanni
Bellini and the altarpiece,” pp. 278, 284, n. 11.
“mentre nel Libro Borsario abbiamo questo registro:
– Nota quod ego Fr. Alricus de Argentina recepi à
Padre Magistro Joanne de Muriano pro fabrica Altaris
S. Vincentii F… – Lib. Sacrist. V. all’an. 1523,” Curti,
Cronaca, fol. 75.
For instance, by Goffen, “Giovanni Bellini and the
Altarpiece,” p. 279, and Sponza, “L’altare e la pala,”
p. 31.
“un’altra carta riferisce che nel Libro della Sacrestia
del 1464 a’ 6 gennaio trovavasi tale nota: ‘Nota quod
ego Prof. Olricus de Argentina recepi a Patre Priore
Mag.ro Joanne de Muriano de Venetiis pro fabrica
altaris Santis Vincenti’,” Fogolari, “Disegni per
gioco,” pp. 388-389.
Conti, “Echi di Marco Zoppo,” pp. 102-103, n. 15,
considers the possibility that “Olricus de Argentina”
is linked to the execution of the wooden frame, but
this can probably be excluded given his designation as
“Fr.” (“friar”) in Curti’s Cronaca.
“Fr. Joannes de Muriano subprior,” Venice, Archivio
di Stato: Santi Giovanni e Paolo, P.X. nn. 1, 88, 150.
Flaminio Corner, Ecclesiae Venetae Antiquis
Monumentis, 8 vols. (Venice: Giovanni Battista
Pasquali, 1749), VII, p. 252. Also Fogolari,
“Disegni,” p. 390, n. 8, provided this reference, but
it seems to have been subsequently ignored.
Sponza, “L’altare e la pala,” p. 32; Peter Humfey,
“Competitive Devotions: The Venetian Scuole Piccole
as Donors of Altarpieces in the Years around 1500,”
The Art Bulletin 70 (1988): pp. 405-406.
Massimo Bisson, Meravigliose macchine di giubilo:
L’architettura e l’arte degli organi a Venezia nel Rinascimento
(Venice: Fondazione Giorgio Cini-Scripta
Edizioni, 2012), pp. 51-57, 71-72, n. 15-34. Bisson
demonstrated that the false “evidence” that the
organ was built by Bernardo d’Alemagna in 1464
was generated by Lunelli’s influential studies: Renato
Lunelli, Die Orgelwerke von San Marco in Venedig (Mainz:
Rheingold-Verlag, 1957), pp. 5-7.
On Cavalcaselle and Gentile Bellini’s organ shutters,
see: Susy Marcon, “Giovan Battista Cavalcaselle e
le portelle di gentile Bellini e Francesco Tacconi per
gli organi di San Marco. Il disegno come metodo
critico,” in Florilegium artium: Scritti in memoria di Renato
Polacco, ed. Giordana Trovabene (Padua: Il Poligrafo,
2006), pp. 337-344, 477-478. Gentile’s Beato Giustiniani
is now in Venice, Gallerie dell’Accademia, inv. 570.
Rome, Pinacoteca Vaticana, inv. 40303. Rodolfo
Pallucchini, I Vivarini: Antonio, Bartolomeo, Alvise
(Vicenza: Neri Pozza, 1961), no. 110, p. 112; Carlo
Pietrangeli, I dipinti del Vaticano, no. 162, pp. 165-166.
The link between Vivarini’s and Bellini’s Saint
Christophers was also noted by Finocchi Ghersi, in
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La basilica, p. 213, but this author sees the similarity
as an indication that Bellini was inspired by Antonio
Vivarini, a hypothesis that is not viable for this mature
phase of Bellini’s art.
Clara Gelao in I Vivarini. Lo splendore della pittura tra
Gotico e Rinascimento, ed. Giandomenico Romanelli,
exh. cat. (Conegliano: Palazzo Sarcinelli, 2016), no.
9, p. 137; Carlo Cavalli in Romanelli, I Vivarini, no.
10, pp. 137-138.
It has been noted that Bellini’s Saint Christopher
is one of the first representations in Renaissance
painting of the figura serpentinata: Craig Hugh Smyth,
“Venice and the Emergence of the High Renaissance
in Florence. Observations and Questions,” in Florence
and Venice: Comparisons and Relations, eds. Sergio Bertelli,
Nicolai Rubenstein, and Craig Hugh Smyth, 2 vols.
(Florence: La Nuova Italia, 1979), I, pp. 219-220.
On this perspective, which is today not much in
vogue, see, lately, Antonio Mazzotta, “In his Father’s
Workshop: Giovanni Bellini’s Paintings for the Scuola
di S. Giovanni Evangelista, Venice,” The Burlington
Magazine 160 (2018): pp. 283-290 (where the cycle
is dated on the basis of stylistic and documentary
evidence to 1452-1453).
The date 1464 was reported by Carlo Ridolfi: on
this lost cycle, see Peter Humfrey, “The Life of St
Jerome Cycle from the Scuola di San Girolamo in
Cannaregio,” Arte veneta 39 (1985): pp. 41-46.
Venice, Gallerie dell’Accademia, inv. 621a. See
Sandra Moschini Marconi, Gallerie dell’Accademia di
Venezia: Opere d’arte dei secoli XIV e XV (Rome: Istituto
Poligrafico dello Stato, 1955), no. 79, pp. 82-83;
Giovanna Nepi Scirè, in Il colore ritrovato, no. 3, p. 125.
Venice, Gallerie della Accademia, inv. 621. See
Moschini Marconi, Gallerie dell’Accademia, no. 78, pp.
81-82; Giovanna Nepi Scirè, in Il colore ritrovato, no.
2, p. 124.
This comparison was also proposed independently by
Giacomo Alberto Calogero (personal communication).
Conti, “Echi di Marco Zoppo”. Conti, in this same
important essay, proposed that the Head of Saint
John the Baptist in Pesaro, Musei Civici (inv. 83) is
not the work of Zoppo – as still today commonly
believed – but rather of Giovanni Bellini. This idea
was convincingly supported in a recent article that
proved that the Head has a completely different
provenance to Zoppo’s Pesaro altarpiece, and
therefore that it has nothing to do with its predella:
see Giacomo Alberto Calogero, “Nuove ricerche
sulla pala di Pesaro di Marco Zoppo,” Paragone: Arte
64/112 (2013): pp. 3-21.
Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Ms. Vat. Lat.
5208. See Giacomo Alberto Calogero, “Ruggeri,
Marco, detto lo Zoppo,” in Dizionario Biografico degli
Italiani 89 (Roma: Istituto dell Enciclopedia Italiana,
2017), p. 188; Giacomo Alberto Calogero, “’Non
tanto per el guadagno quanto per l’onore’. Marco
Zoppo, le corti italiane e gli umanisti,” Intrecci d’arte 6
(2017): pp. 22, 25-29.
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