Bellini, Gentile

, an eminent artist, was the son of Giacopo Bellini, also an artist, and born at Venice, 1421. He was instructed by his father in the art of painting in distemper as well as in oil. He was accounted the most knowing of any artist in his time, and was employed by the doge to paint the hall of the great council; and for others of the nobility he executed several noble works. His reputation was at that time so extensive, that it reached the Ottoman court;*


De Piles and other writers represent the transaction of Gentile at Constantinople, agreeable to what is related ahove; but Vasari says that Mahomet II. had seen some of the works of Giovanni Bellini, which he admired exceedingly, and desired that the painter of those pictures might be sent to him from Venice but that the senate prevailed on Gentile to go instead of Giovanni, as he was then engaged in a large work, and the doge was unwilling to deprive his country of so famous an artist; Giovanni being esteemed the best painter, not only of his own family, who were all painters, but the ablest artist of his time. The circumstance of beheading the slave is not mentioned by Vasari.

and the emperor Mahomet II. having seen some of his performances, invited him to Constantinople, received him with great respect, sat to him for his portrait, and engaged him there for some time, giving him many rich presents, and many marks of his regard. But the emperor having ordered the head of a slave to be cut off before the face of Gentile, to convince him of an incorrectness in a picture of the decollation of St. John, he was so affected, and so terrified at the sight, that he never enjoyed peace of mind till he obtained leave to return to his own country. Mahomet, to do him honour, put a gold chain about his neck, and wrote to the senate of Venice in his favour, which at his return procured him a pension for life, and the honourable distinction of the order of St. Mark. Vasari mentions a Sea-fight, painted by this master, which had extraordinary merit, in the variety of the figures, the truth of the expressions, the great propriety of the attitudes, the perspective distances of the vessels, and the grandeur of the composition. He died 1501.2