Portraits make up only a small part of the creative heritage of Giovanni Bellini. But, despite the “barrenness” in this genre, he was always considered one of the best portraitists of his time. The earliest of the dated portraits of Bellini refers to 1474, and most of the portraits that survived were written in the 80s and 90s of the 15th century. At the end of life, the artist did not write portraits. But, nevertheless, it was during this period that one of his most famous portraits, “Portrait of the Doge Loredana”, emerged from under his hand.
Almost all portraits of Bellini are sustained in one format. A typical example of the master’s work in this genre is the “Portrait of a Young Man”. It is curious that the artist never created women’s portraits – only male portraits. And at the same time – only the waist. The head of the pose is always turned a little to the left. The background in portraits is usually homogeneous, and only occasionally, as in the “Portrait of a Young Man”, the artist depicted in the background of a cloud or landscape. Scientists managed to identify only a few of the portraits portrayed by Bellini people. There is no doubt in one – all portrayed belonged to noble and wealthy Venetian families. According to Vasari, Bellini “first introduced the custom by which any Venetian could order his portrait to him or any other artist”.
Giovanni did not like portraits and wrote them a little. In the composition decision of the portrait, the artist was under the great influence of Mantegna, whom he knew well, since he was his brother-in-law. Mantegna was one of the first in Italian painting to turn the image in three quarters, as did the Dutch masters. A small “Male Portrait”, written in 1475, in the Louvre collection since 1902. This work absorbed all the picturesque innovations to which the artist joined.
The man is facing us in three quarters, but in it there is no sculptural rigidity, typical for portraits of Mantegna. Clear and voluminous modeling of forms, thanks to the use of oil painting techniques, looks softer and smoother. The background for the silhouette of the portrait is the sky with floating clouds, which brings a sense of some intimacy. In this portrait the master made a big step forward in revealing the works of painting of the inner world of man.