Julia Kristeva reading
Looking at page 243-244, what historical influences shaped Bellini’s perception?
Flemish landscape painting, iconography, and Mediterranean architecture.
What few biographical details do we have of his life? Describe particularly the status of his relationship to his mother revealed on 244, 246-7
His father and brother were both painters, his father Jacopo Bellini and his brother Gentile Bellini. His brother-in-law also happened to be a painter as well, Andrea Mantegna.
He was the official painter for the Ducal Palace.
His wife Ginerva Botcheta died young and as did his son.
He died in 1516 but it is uncertain when he was born, most likely around 1410.
Giovanni’s status with his mother isn’t really known. It is said that he might be an illegitimate child or possibly a son from his father’s previous marriage. So it seems that he didn’t have much of a relationship with his mother at all. This is shown in his Madonna and Child paintings with the Madonna never making eye contact with the child but instead her gaze is off on something else.
What do Leonardo’s paintings of Madonna and child tell us about him, according to Kristeva (244-5)?
They silently speak about his childhood and him being born an illegitimate child and thus having two mothers. Both his mothers were very affectionate and this love and double motherhood is shown in his depiction of Madonna and Child.
Leonardo, “The Virgin and Child with St. Ann” c. 1506
How do Bellini’s Madonna’s differ from Leonardo’s? 247-8
Bellini’s depict Mary as very stern and emotionless, while Leonardo’s are more playful and loving in his depiction of Mary. In Bellini’s Madonna and child he depicts the mother looking away from the child and holding him very stiff and formally, while in Leonardo’s the mother is shown gazing at the child with love and emotion.
Bellini, “Madonna and Child” c. 1468
Leonardo, “Madonna and Child with Flowers” c. 1478
Kristeva reveals the significance of Bellini’s use of color in several passages. How is his production of meaning through color significant and different from others in his time?
I believe that even though Bellini’s Madonna’s lack emotion and are presented to us very formally, his use of color provides a sense of life and vibrance that is different from other paintings of his time. Most paintings of his time present color as what they see, and don’t use it as a tool to explore meaning and emotion as I believe Bellini does.
What does Kristeva mean when she writes: “the theme of Christ’s death often appears coupled with the Nativity theme, as if the son’s death were supposed to provide a necessarily tragic and human rendition of this indeterminate passion-anguish-melancholy-joy giving iridescence to the serenity of the maternal body?” 253
I believe Kristeva means that we always tie Christ’s birth and death hand in hand and this is seen especially in Bellini’s paintings. His depiction as Mary with a cold and absent look and her fingertips barely caressing the Child show the looming knowledge of Christ’s death.
What changes does she trace in Bellini’s paintings of Mary from his 1450-1460, (p. 253) to those of 1455-60 (253-4) to those of 1460-64 (254) to those of 1475-80 (259), those of 1480-90 (259) and the final series from 1500-1509 (263 ff)?
Bellini’s paintings of Mary from 1450-60 are depicted as distant and cold. She barely makes contact with the child and the expression she wears is almost on the verge of sadness. From 1455-60 the Virgin’s contact with the child changes and her physical grasp becomes possessive and almost violent. From 1460-64 Bellini is still focused on the mother’s grip but now her hands have shifted to the bottom of the child or on his genitals. From 1475-80 he began to introduce architectural structures in the backgrounds of his Madonna and Child portraits and the body was minimized. From 1480-90 Mary is depicted with a sense of fear and seems ready to flee, and the child becomes accentuated. The child is shown with his hand at his mother’s throat. Finally from 1500-09 Bellini presents Mary as calm and absent again with the infant’s body parallel to hers and seems easily separable.
What happened in Bellini’s family life between 1485-1499 to which Kristeva attributes the major changes of these later periods?
During this 15 year period Bellini lost both his wife and his son. These tragic events were reflected in his changes in style of his Madonna and Child portraits.>