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Bellini’s “Sacra Allegoria”

Categories Italian art News

Among the works under the care of the Uffizi Gallery there is also Giovanni Bellini’s “Sacra Allegoria” of circa 1490.

The subject of this work is still not entirely known. This type of work is usually called “sacra conversazione” or “holy conversation” in English: a few religious figures (some of which have still not been identified) are inserted in a scene with the Madonna. In this case the context is a beautiful Renaissance piazza surrounded by a balustrade facing a lake-like or fluvial landscape.

However, I would like to linger momentarily on just one easily distinguishable figure that is St. Sebastian: the young man to the very right of the painting. He is an elegant figure, almost ephebic even if he emanates a great strength. I would now like to compare this figure with Luchino Visconti’s “Tadzio” who features in his 1971 masterpiece Death in Venice. Here you will find the final scene of the film. Pause a moment at 1’35’’. Do you not find a certain similarity in the profile, hairstyle or behavior of the two boys? Is it perhaps an allusion to Bellini’s painting?