Giovanni Bellini / St. Francis in the Desert / c. 1480Giovanni Bellini
St. Francis in the Desert
c. 1480

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Creator Name: Bellini, Giovanni
Creator Nationality: European; Southern European; Italian
Creator Dates/Places: c.1430-1516
Creator Name-CRT: Giovanni Bellini
Title: St. Francis in the Desert
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1470
Creation End Date: 1490
Creation Date: c. 1480
Object Type: Paintings
Materials and Techniques: tempera and oil on poplar panel (cradled)
Dimensions: 49 x 55 7/8 in. (124.4 x 141.9 cm.)
Inscriptions: Signed on a strip of parchment fixed to a barren twig at lower left: "IOANNES BELLINUS"
AMICA Contributor: The Frick Collection
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 15.1.3
Credit Line: Purchased
Subject Terms: Saints--Francis of Assisi
Context: St. Francis of Assisi (1181/82-1226), founder of the Franciscan order, is believed to have received the stigmata -- the wounds of Christ's Crucifixion -- in 1224 during a retreat on Mount Alverna in the Apennines. It may be this event that Bellini evokeshere through the naturalistic yet transcendental imagery of rays of light flooding the foreground from an unseen source at upper left. However, alternative explanations for the scene have been proposed. The wilderness -- or desert -- of Mount Alverna is compared in early Franciscan sources to the desert of the Book of Exodus, and Moses and Aaron were seen by the Franciscans as their spiritual ancestors, who were believed to have lived again in their founder. A parallel was seen between the saint s stigmatization on Mount Alverna and Moses communion with God on Mount Horeb. The quivering tree at upper left, shining in the mysterious light, may then be intended to recall not only the Cross but also the burning bush of Moses vision at Horeb. The landscapeof Bellini's desert is filled with marvelous details -- animals, birds, persons, plants, objects such as the skull and sandals, and strange rock formations -- that yielded hidden meanings for those who understood their importance in Franciscan literature. The water trickling from a spout in the stones at left, for example, is compared to the miraculous fountain Moses brought forth from the rocks at Horeb, and the empty sandals behind the barefoot saint recall God's command to Moses to "put off the shoes from thy feet: for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." It is perhaps this sense of significance in all things as well as the radiant light flowing over the landscape that imbues the painting with such magical appeal.
Related Document Description: New York, The Frick Collection. Art in the Frick Collection: Paintings, Sculpture, Decorative Arts [cat.]. Comps. C. Ryskamp, et al., 1996, p.47 (reproduced in color). New York, The Frick Collection. An Illustrated Catalogue. Vol.2, Paintings. [cat.]. 1968, pp.203-209 (reproduced in color).
AMICA ID: TFC_.Bellini.15-1-3
AMICA Library Year: 1999
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Frick Collection, New York, 1999

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