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Portrait of Andrea Vendramin, Doge of Venice, with His Brother Luca and an Unidentified Papal Nuncio

Portrait of Andrea Vendramin, Doge of Venice, with His Brother Luca and an Unidentified Papal Nuncio

Gentile Bellini (in circa 1477-1478)

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Title Portrait of Andrea Vendramin, Doge of Venice, with His Brother Luca and an Unidentified Papal Nuncio
Material and technique Pen and brush and brown ink, bodycolour and gold, on parchment, pen and brush and brown ink, gouache and gold, on parchment
Object type
Drawing > Two-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Width 232 mm
Height 325 mm
Artists Draughtsman: Gentile Bellini
Accession number I 179 (PK)
Credits Acquired with the collection of D.G. Van Beuningen (former Koenigs collection), 1958
Department Drawings & Prints
Acquisition date 1958
Creation date in circa 1477-1478
Collector Collector / Franz Koenigs
Mark F.W. Koenigs (L.1023a deest), D.G. van Beuningen (L.758)
Provenance Silvestro Bonfiglioli (1637-1696), Bologna; Bartolommeo Bonfiglioli, Bologna-Venice; sold by his heirs to Zaccaria Sagredo between 1728 and 1734; Zaccaria Sagredo (1653-1729, L.2103a, inv. deest), Venice (inserted in an album); Sagredo's albums sold by his heirs to Consul John Udny in 1763 and brought to England by him; Earls of Sunderland (in one of four Sagredo albums); by inheritance to George Charles Spencer Churchill, 8th Duke of Marlborough, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock; his sale, London (Christie) 15.06.1883, lot 15 (BP 44/18/0 to Noxeda); - ; John Postle Heseltine (1843-1929, L.1507), London (cat. 1906, no. 1); possibly art dealers P. & D. Colnaghi & Obach, London (1912); Franz W. Koenigs (1881-1941, L.1023a), Haarlem, acquired in 1926; D.G. van Beuningen (1877-1955), Rotterdam, acquired with the Koenigs Collection in 1940; acquired with the Van Beuningen Collection in 1958
Exhibitions London 1912, no. 70; London 1930, no. 696; Amsterdam 1934, no. 432; Rotterdam 2009 (coll 2 kw 1); Rotterdam 2016
Internal exhibitions Van Pisanello tot Cézanne (1992)
De Collectie Twee - wissel I, Prenten & Tekeningen (2009)
Rondom Fra Bartolommeo (2016)
Research Show research Italian Drawings 1400-1600
Literature Heseltine 1906, no. 1, ill. (Giovanni Bellini); Londen 1912, no. 70, pl. L; Venturi 1915, vol. 4, pp. 558-559, ill. 343 (Bellinesque); Haarlem 1926, no. 21, ill.; London 1930, no. 696 / London 1930a, no. 159, pl. 138 / London 1930b, no. 761 (Venetian 15th c.); Popham 1931, no. 159, pl. 138; Amsterdam 1934, nr. 432, ill. (Gentile attr.); Van Marle 1923-38, vol. 19 (1938), pp. 566, 568, fig. 309 (Jacometto?); Servolini 1944, pp. 30-31, pl. III (Jacometto?); Heinemann 1962, vol. 1, p. 240, no. V. 150, vol. 2, p. 619, fig. 713 (close to Gentile); Puppi 1969, p. 5 (Leonardo Bellini?); Collins 1970, p. 174 (School Gentile); Meyer zur Capellen 1985, pp. 181-182, App. VII,2, pl. 81, fig. 174 (Venetian); Heinemann 1991, p. 112 (Gentile)
Geographical origin Italy > Southern Europe > Europe
Place of manufacture Venice > Veneto region > Italy > Southern Europe > Europe

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Entry catalogue Italian Drawings 1400-1600

Author: Albert Elen

The figure on the left in the foreground is immediately identified by his ermine cloak and corno (hat) as the Doge of Venice – the holder of the highest office in the Venetian Republic. It is clear from the family arms on the sumptuously decorated gold brocade cloth hanging over the windowsill that this is Andrea Vendramin (1393-1478). This immensely wealthy nobleman, a member of a leading Venetian merchant family, was eighty when he was elected in 1476. He died from the plague two years later, so his period in office was short. This means that the drawing can be dated fairly accurately – unless it was made posthumously, which is unlikely given the highly individual, life-like features.

This impressive image of the doge and an unknown papal nuncio is in fact a large miniature, executed in various tints of bodycolour with gold leaf on vellum. It is not inconceivable that the drawing once adorned a full page in a precious manuscript, perhaps a family chronicle from which it was later cut out.[1] It is quite possible that there was a chronicle of this kind in the famous collection of Gabriele Vendramin (1484-1552), grandson of the doge’s brother and heir, Luca Vendramin (d. 1527). Among other things, he owned countless drawings, albums and illuminated manuscripts.[2] The stern-faced man behind the doge has until now been regarded as his secretary, but this position would not explain his presence. It could, though, very likely be his brother Luca, who may also have commissioned this double portrait and the possible family chronicle.

Depicting people in profile was popular at that time, as we see in another Belliniesque drawing, now attributed to Francesco Bonsignori (c.1455-1519), also in the Koenigs Collection (inv. I 197). The three people in our drawing are shown behind a beautifully ornamented window, with their arms and hands hidden, so their expressions can only be read from their faces. Given the unusual way the event was pictured, the meeting between the doge and the papal nuncio was evidently the highlight of his brief time in office. It could have been on the occasion of the presentation of the Golden Rose that Pope Sixtus IV gave Vendramin for his generosity to the poor. This prestigious ecclesiastical award was reserved for only the most virtuous of rulers and was consequently an exclusive status symbol for an elected head of state and his family. Although the pope’s envoy is not actually presenting anything here – the two men’s lower arms cannot be seen – on the prominently placed cloth hanging immediately below them there are two stylized gold-embroidered flowers above Vendramin’s family coat of arms.

The drawing has been variously attributed to the brothers Giovanni (c.1430-1516) and Gentile Bellini, as well as to their cousin Leonardo Bellini (c.1423/1425-c.1500/1510) and even to the mysterious Jacometto Veneziano (d. 1497).[3] Leonardo was the leading miniaturist in the 1460 to 1480 period, but more traditional in style than the maker of the Rotterdam group portrait. The attribution to Gentile seems the most plausible, to go by the high quality and the likeness to portraits he made of important people, particularly of Vendramin’s successor, Doge Giovanni Mocenigo (1478-85) and his opponent, the Ottoman Sultan Mohammed II in 1480. The sitters in them are likewise portrayed en buste and in full profile and three-quarter profile respectively; in the sultan’s case, moreover, there is a fine architectural surround with a richly decorated cloth hanging over the windowsill.[4]

Heinemann (1991) is convinced of the attribution to Gentile, but is the only author to regard the drawing as being a portrait of the earlier doge, Niccolò Marcello (1473-74). There is however an insufficient resemblance to the famous (supposed) portrait (after Gentile Bellini), now in London, which is the only known one of this doge.[5]


[1] Included among the miniatures in: Amsterdam 1934.

[2] For this collection see Whistler 2016, pp. 195-97.

[3] See the additions in parentheses in the Literature field.

[4] Now respectively in Venice, Museo Correr, and London, National Gallery, inv. NG3099; Meyer zur Capellen 1985, respectively p. 139, no. A 23, pl. 37, ill. 56; pp. 128-29, pl. 13, ill. 17.

[5] National Gallery, inv. NG3100. See in particular the characteristic large nose.

Show research Italian Drawings 1400-1600
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Gentile Bellini

Venetië circa 1430/1434 - Venetië 1507

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