Masterpiece in the Pinacoteca Brera

Milan’s Pinacoteca Brera is a first class gallery on par with Italy’s finest museums. The collection of Italian, mostly religious, art is spread out in 38 rooms and includes masterpieces by Andrea Mantegna, Piero Della Francesca, Raphael, and Caravaggio.

But I was most taken by Gentile and Giovanni Bellini’s “St. Mark Preaching in a Square in Alexandria, Egypt” (1504-07). As you can see from my photo, this is a monumental work that allows you to lose yourself in its scenes and images.

Per the Pinacoteca website:

The huge canvas adorned the reception room of the Scuola Grande di San Marco in Venice, one of the city’s most prestigious and powerful confraternities. It was commissioned from Gentile Bellini in 1504 but was left incomplete on the death of the artist in 1507. We do not know what stage the picture had reached, but it was finished by his brother Giovanni, who was requested to do so in Gentile’s will.

The attribution of the various parts of the work to each artist is still a matter of debate among scholars; however, the most widely held view assigns to Gentile the definition of the main lines of the scene, in which elements of Venetian architecture are superimposed on structures of clearly Mediterranean and Oriental derivation (for example the obelisks and the minarets of a mosque). These must have been familiar to the artist, who had been sent to work for Mehmed II at Constantinople in 1497.

Giovanni, on the other hand, was probably responsible for the intense portraits of the members of the confraternity in the group on the left.

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3 thoughts

    1. Thanks, Stella. It’s really a lovely museum and just the right size: small enough to keep from being overwhelming and big enough to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.

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