Preaching to a lion

Nicholas Penny

  • Giovanni Bellini by Rona Goffen
    Yale, 347 pp, £39.95, December 1989, ISBN 0 300 04334 1

When, in 1553, Andrea Mantegna married Nicolosia, daughter of Jacopo Bellini, one of the foremost artists in Venice, he was himself the leading painter in Padua. A marriage of this sort is unlikely to have been a love match, or at least merely a love match. One of Jacopo’s sons, Giovanni, may have been Mantegna’s pupil or protégé: he was five or so years younger than Mantegna, seems not to have achieved by this date any great reputation, and his early work was remarkably similar in manner to that of his brother-in-law, as is clear to visitors to the National Gallery in London, who have the chance to compare paintings by each, of more or less the same size, with the same subject (the Agony in the Garden) and in the same remarkable state of preservation.

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