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“Saint Francis in the Desert” by Giovanni Bellini

Giovanni Bellini - Saint Francis in the Desert

“Saint Francis in the Desert” by Giovanni Bellini

“Saint Francis in the Desert” by Giovanni Bellini portrays Saint Francis of Assisi stepping out in the sun from his cave. Francis lived under poor conditions in the beginning and used to take part in isolated spiritual retreats at monasteries. The overall composition is thought to be a meditation of St. Francis, and although it has been cut down in size, the signature of  IOANNES BELLINVS on a small, creased tag is visible in the lower-left corner.

Bellini depicted Francis in religious ecstasy, whether receiving the stigmata or praying and singing his Canticle of the Sun. This composition is a non-traditional and does not follow any of the established iconographic motifs. However, the painting is full of symbolism.  In the distance rises the still-empty Heavenly Jerusalem. The donkey can be interpreted as a symbol of humility and patience. The skull on the reading table represents mortality. The cave may relate Francis to Saint Jerome, who also lived in a cave. The saint has left his shoes behind and stands barefoot-like Moses. This picture reflects Saint Francis’s love for nature, landscape, and animals.

Giovanni Bellini

Giovanni Bellini was a Renaissance painter, who revolutionized Venetian painting, making it more luxurious and vibrant colors. 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.

The Ecstasy of St. Francis or St. Francis in the Desert

  • Title:                 The Ecstasy of St. Francis or St. Francis in the Desert
  • Artist:               Giovanni Bellini
  • Created:           1480
  • Medium:          Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:     124.6 cm × 142 cm (49.1 in × 56 in)
  • Museum:          Frick Collection, New York

Giovanni Bellini

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“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
– Francis of Assisi

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