The “Pietà” by Giovanni Bellini, weeping works of art

Giovanni Bellini (Venice, 1433-1516) often tackled the iconographic theme of the “Pietà” and similar “Lamentation of Christ”.

Between 1465 and 1470, Bellini painted the so-called “Brera Pietà”, an image of pity and mourning in which Mary and John are seen holding Jesus. Below, on the wall of the grave, a short Latin inscription reads, “Every time these tear-swollen eyes will provoke sobs, perhaps it will be Bellini’s painting that is weeping.”

According to expert Massimo Rivoltella, “Bellini’s interpretation of the subject is imbued with his usual focus on the human aspects of Christ and Mary’s drama, in their solidarity and compassion – in the etymological sense of the word – for every man’s suffering.”

Rivoltella also explains that the artist took on the task of “leading the people admiring his work to the characters he depicted, towards a final goal of deep feeling. The touching, heart wrenching hues highlighted in the scene of Jesus’s mourning are aimed at shaking souls, to the point that people who see the painting start sobbing, overwhelmed by the pity for such pain, solitude, and unfairness” (M. Rivoltella, “Argomentazione, Parola, Immagine: retorica e forme della comunicazione”, EduCatt, Milan 2013).

Here are some of Bellini’s most heart wrenching examples of “Pietà”.

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"Dead Christ Supported by the Madonna and St John" ("Pietà di Brera"), Brera Art Gallery, detail

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"Pietà Donà dalle Rose", ca. 1505, oil on table, Academy Gallery, Venice

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"Pietà", 1472, tempera on canvas, Doge's Palace in Venice

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"Pietà", Doge's Palace in Venice, detail

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"Dead Christ Supported by Mary and Saint John", 1455, tempera on table, Carrara Academy, Bergamo

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"Dead Christ Supported by Two Angels", 1460, tempera on table, Correr Museum, Venice

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"The Dead Christ Mourned" ("Pesaro Altarpiece"), 1474, oil on table, Vatican Art Gallery, Vatican City, Rome

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"Dead Christ Supported by Two Angels", ca. 1465-1470, tempera on table, London National Gallery

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"Dead Christ", ca. 1475-1480, oil on table, Town Art Gallery, Rimini

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"Pietà", 1455-1460, tempera on table, Poldi Pezzoli Museum, Milan

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"Dead Christ Supported by Two Angels" ("San Vincenzo Ferrer Polyptych"), ca. 1464-1470, tempera on table, Church of Saints John and Paul, Venice

Giovanni Bellini, "Pietà"

"Lamentation of Christ", 1490-1500, oil on table, Uffizi Gallery, Florence


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