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“Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan” by Giovanni Bellini

"Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan" by Giovanni Bellini

“Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan” by Giovanni Bellini

“Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan” by Giovanni Bellini is part of a longheld Venetian tradition of painting formal portraits of the City’s rulers dressed in state robes. In Bellini’s picture, he is shown wearing his robes of state. The hat and buttons are part of his official state wardrobe. The composition of the portrait is in the style of the sculpted portrait busts popular at the time and inspired by Roman sculpture.

Leonardo Loredan (1436 – 1521) was the 75th Doge or ruler of the Republic of Venice for twenty years, from 1501 until his death. Bellini’s portrait of Loredan was one of the first frontal portraits of a reigning Doge. Before this period, mortals were portrayed in profile, while the frontal view was reserved for more religious subjects.

The Doge of Venice was the chief magistrate and leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, a practice that lasted for 1,100 years from 697 to 1797. Doges of Venice were elected for life by the city-state’s aristocracy. Commonly the man selected as Doge was the shrewdest elder in the city. The Republic of Venice was a financial and maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, as well as a significant centre of commerce and art. The city-state of Venice was one of the first real international financial centres which made Venice one of the wealthiest cities before the Napoleonic era.

Giovanni Bellini

Giovanni Bellini was a Renaissance painter, who revolutionised Venetian painting, making it more sensuous and vibrant colours. He was also famous for his portraiture and helped make this art form especially popular in Venice. Bellini created deep, rich tints and detailed shadings and his atmospheric landscapes had a significant effect on the Venetian painters, especially on his pupils Giorgione and Titian.

Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan

  • Title:            Portrait of Doge Leonardo Loredan
  • Artist:          Giovanni Bellini
  • Created:      1501
  • Medium:     oil on poplar wood
  • Dimensions: 61.6 × 45.1 cm (24.2 × 17.7 in)
  • Museum:     The National Gallery, London

Giovanni Bellini


  • Giovanni Bellini was famous for his portraiture. What does he tell us about this subject?
  • Why were so many artists drawn to Venice?
  • The Republic of Venice lasted for over 1,000 years. Was the selection of a wise Doge the secret to its longevity during turbulent times?



“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
– Leonardo da Vinci


Photo Credit 1) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons