Madonna degli Alberetti

Madonna of the Alberetti, or Small Trees

Giovanni Bellini

Author
Giovanni Bellini
Venezia, 1434/1439 - 1516
Title
Madonna of the Alberetti, or Small Trees
Catalogue
596
Support
Wood panel, 71 x 58 cm
Provenance
Donated by Girolamo Contarini,1838
Hall
Hall IV

Temporary display

This panel was donated to the Gallerie by Girolamo Contarini in 1838 and takes its name from the two poplars symetrically positioned on each side of the green tapestry which acts as a backdrop to the group of the Virgin and Child. Interestingly, the artist added the date (1487) to his signature on the marble green parapet, only the second example of this in one of his works, the first being the Portrait of Joerg Fugger in Pasadena, which bore the date 1474, unfortunately no longer visible. The work serves as an invaluable reference point within the master’s oeuvre as it can be situated unequivocally, and is considered one of his greatest achievements in his paintings on this theme. The Virgin’s figure casts a shadow onto the green tapestry behind her, creating an effect that is both surpsingly modern and highly naturalistic. It helps give the impression of a warm evening light, of a setting sun that can be glimpsed in the diffuse brightness among the tree leaves and in the line of the horizon that delineates the slow buildup of the hills towards the snowy peaks in the background. Bellini used the cartoon for this Madonna and Child again for his Madonna and Child with Saints Paul and George, which is also held by the Gallerie dell’Accademia. There is also an extant workshop copy of this painting which has passed through various private collections.