5 March–18 June 2016
Museo Correr, Sala delle Quattro Porte
The “A Masterpiece for Venice” project opens the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the death of Giovanni Bellini (Venice c. 1430–1516) at Museo Correr, where L’ebbrezza di Noè (The Drunkenness of Noah) – one of the greatest masterpieces of this great protagonist of the Italian Renaissance – will be shown from 5 March to 18 June 2016. This event has been planned under the direction of Pierre Rosenberg, in collaboration with the Alliance française, and with the invaluable partnership of Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie di Besançon, which has housed this painting in its collections since 1895.
The work, which was probably Bellini’s last, was painted in 1515, and was attributed to him definitely over the course of the 20th century after four centuries of discussion. One of Bellini’s most representative paintings is now returning to Venice. The artist, who was defined by Dürer in 1506 as «very old, but still the best painter of all», took on new themes in a series of paintings that included the Drunkenness of Noah, which is the only one inspired by the Old Testament.
Based on Genesis (9.18-27), the theme evokes the episode in which Noah, drunk after tasting the wine from his vineyards, has fallen asleep naked. His son Ham discovers him dozing, laughs at the sight of what the Greeks called the “shameful parts” and informs his brothers, who then want to hide their old father. For their insolent derision, Noah curses Ham and descendants (Canaan) condemning them to slavery.
This family drama is interpreted as the reinstatement of a hierarchical order among the survivors of the purifying flood, the cause of and justification for inequality among the descendants of the three sons. The painting can be considered a sort of “visual testament” of the old painter who, having abandoned the 15th century style, bravely anticipated that of the 16th century. He clearly embraced the new innovative genre and, particularly, the deep poetics of his student Giorgione, who had died young in 1510.
In fact, the psychological expression of the three brothers around the figure of Noah, created by the freeness of the brushstrokes and the artist’s vibrant touch, give this painting the “atmospheric” quality uncommon until now. Bellini shows he had assimilated Giorgione’s revolution even if at the end of his long and brilliant career. He was also still capable of inventing a new iconography on a rare theme in the history of painting.
To celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Giovanni Bellini, the city of Venice has planned a project that, with the Fondazione Musei Civici of Venice, will involve several organisations during the year: the Municipality of Venice, the Giorgio Cini Foundation, the Veneto Polo Museale, the Accademia Galleries, the Ufficio Promozione Beni Culturali of the Patriarchate of Venice, the BAPPSE Office of Venice and its Lagoon, and of Verona, Rovigo, and Vicenza, the Querini Stampalia Foundation, the Sovereign Order of Malta, in a series of events that envisages itineraries throughout the city and in several churches, a convention, two conferences at the Correr Museum, and other exhibitions. “A Masterpiece for Venice” will see the return to Venice of several masterpieces of 15th – 18th century Venetian art, which are housed in foreign museums and are therefore little known by the Italian public. Special thanks to: Consorzio Tutela Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore.
In collaboration with: