Essay on Madonna with Saints

Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna with Saints

Madonna with Saints is one of the greatest paintings of the Renaissance. It was painted by the famous Renaissance artist Giovanni Bellini. The artist made his masterpiece in oil paints on wood, but later it was transferred to canvas. The size of the painting is rather big: 4.92 x 2.32 m. Later, in 1515, the painter did the altarpiece of this painting. Due to the artist’s ability to render the perspective and play of shades and shadows of color and light the painting has become a real masterpiece. Nowadays people can see this masterpiece on the altar in the little church in Venice. Madonna with Saints is not a usual picture of the Renaissance. Giovanni Bellini invented his own approach to color that is why he is considered to be the founder of the Venetian school of painting. His new approach to form and color, true and realistic characters, bright and precise accents allowed the Venetian school of painting to achieve the great popularity and even compete with the schools of Rome and Florence.

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Bellini’s painting is unique because in it the painter was able to combine rigid and severe realistic style with religious motives. This peculiarity makes the saint characters look as real. Bellini’s approach to color was new in his time – time of the Renaissance. The painting is very bright but at the same time it does not make an impression of shining. Bellini’s secret is the usage of a great number of colors at once. He does it so professionally that the images created look very real but at the same time simple. It is the richness of colors that attracts people as soon as they look at it. At first sight due to the brightness of the picture people can not even notice the main motive of the picture – Madonna sitting on throne with small Jesus in her hands. Jesus is looking at the saints and people around him. At both sides of the throne we see the saints: St Lucy, St Jerome, St Catherine and St Peter. St Peter has a book and a key in his hands and he his looking into the distance. St Jerome is reading a book. St Jerome is considered to translate the Bible into Latin. The choice of saints is not accidental. In front of the Virgin, at the foot of the altar is sitting a girl – a little angel – with the violin in her hands. At first sight the painting does not differ from other painting where Madonna, Jesus and saints are depicted, except the brightness and richness of colors but, in fact, it is not so. There always existed a strict tradition in depicting religious motives: Madonna with Jesus is depicted in the foreground, while saints are following them and are depicted in the background. Bellini had broken this tradition: saints in his painting, as we can see, are depicted, in the foreground. The painter changes this traditional symmetrical arrangement consciously and does it to bring some life into the saint characters.

Looking at the painting of other artists we see saints in their holy images while Bellini was able to depict saints as real human being not loosing their holiness and sanctity at the same time. Looking at this picture we feel that these people belong to another divine world but their individualism and features peculiar only them make interpret them as personalities. Madonna with Saints is one of the latest artist’s paintings and so it was painted at the height of Bellini’s fame and unsurpassed skills. The new approach to color and light allows to see the picture as one whole. The surrounding, the nature, the figures, even air and light make one whole and it makes this picture so unique. The figures are rather indistinct but this effect of scouring edges creates the feeling of naturalness and reality.

To my mind, Madonna with Saints is a real masterpiece. It differs greatly from other paintings devoted to the religious theme. Every detail is significant and meaningful in this picture because these are the details that create the whole image of the painting. Firstly, the painter’s richness of colors makes the picture bright but at the same time light and divine. Secondly, Bellini depicts the Virgin with Jesus and saints but we see them as common people with their own peculiarities. Every character in the painting is occupied with his own deed: St Jerome is reading, Madonna is playing with little Jesus, St Peter is holding a book and moving in some direction. These little details make the images individual and so realistic.

Thirdly, it is necessary to pay special attention to the play of light: the left part of the picture is shadowed, while the right part, where little Jesus is depicted, is sunlight. It is not accidental: it makes Madonna and Jesus’ figures the logical centre of the painting and attracts our attention first of all to them. For the same aim the faces of saints are shadowed. Another peculiarity of Bellini’s painting is the fact that he does not depict eyes: they are either closed or are looking in some direction. On the one hand, it seems strange but on the other hand it helps to concentrate on the picture itself not on its peculiar details. The picture makes good, warm and light impressions. It is achieved not only due to the depictions of the figures itself but also due to the depiction of nature. Natural fragments are very important because they make us feel one whole with God and nature. On the left and on the right we can see fragments of trees and the sky. The weather is good, it is spring or summer. The leaves are on the trees – it symbolizes the beginning of life and energy. When we turn back to the centre of the picture we see Jesus – also the symbol of life, kindness and hope for future. The painting makes an impression of the scene from the real life but at the same time we can feel that these characters are not common people but saints and it makes the picture inimitable – real and divine at the same time.

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