San Zaccaria Altarpiece
- Artist: Giovanni Bellini
- Product Code: giovanni bellini 72
San Zaccaria Altarpiece is a masterpiece of Bellini's late activity, the oil painting work is signed and dated 1505. It is a sacra conversazione set in a loggia closed at the back by an apse with a conch decorated with mosaic. At the top hang a lamp and an ostrich egg, symbol of Mary's virgin motherhood. Alongside the Virgin and Child, an angel is playing the lira da braccio, are represented, from left to right, St. Peter, St. Catherine, St. Lucy and St. Jerome.
The picture, originally arched, was painted on panel and transferred onto canvas in the Napoleonic era, when it was taken to Paris. It marks the culmination of Bellini's long quest for an atmospheric kind of painting and a classical and magniloquent balance of composition. The architectural setting is in a style close to that of the Lombardo family of sculptors who were active at the time in Venice, and must originally have looked as if it were a continuation of the chapel's real architecture. The broad arches at the sides open onto a daytime landscape, dominated by a blue and cloudy sky: so the scene is at once indoors and outdoors, and the sunlight penetrates between the figures, illuminating the Madonna on her tall throne, her blue cloak and the face of the Magdalen on the right, while elsewhere deep and warm shadows gather, as in the beautiful foliage of the mosaic. The parallel figures of St. Peter and St. Jerome, with their faces lit from behind in an unprecedented and bold solution, mark the distance between the foreground and the rest of the composition and appear to be set in the same warm semidarkness as the interior of the church from which the observer admires the work. Rightly considered the first great Venetian altarpiece of the 16th century, the work should be seen in relation to the emergence of Giorgione, who may have had an influence on the late manner of the elderly painter.
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