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Lost-and-found Renaissance masterpieces are gifts that keep on giving. In recent years, valuable and important paintings have been found in bedrooms, attics and storage units. Now, one more is added to the list: a previously unknown masterpiece by Giovanni Bellini has recently come to light. Crafted around 1460, this artwork portrays the Madonna and Child.
As read in the note published by Medievalists.net, Beatrice Tanzi, a Ph.D. student in Art History at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, stumbled upon this find during her research in Dalmatia. Located at the Museum of the Benedictine monastery of St. Margaret on the island of Pag, the painting’s exceptional quality had been mistakenly attributed to a medieval Italian artist.
On a wooden panel measuring 54.5 x 44.5 cm (21 x 17 inches), the painting has endured some paint loss over time. However, the remaining intact portions showcase an extraordinary level of skill. Tanzi posits that it likely dates back to around 1460 – a period still early in Bellini’s illustrious career, which might explain the previous “medieval” confusion.
Tanzi supports the attribution to Giovanni Bellini by citing stylistic similarities with the artist’s early works, revealing formal connections with his brother-in-law Andrea Mantegna.
The significance of this revelation lies not only in the artistic prowess of Bellini, but also in its geographical context. It marks the first instance of a Bellini painting found in the Eastern territories of the Venetian Republic. Notably, more than a century has passed since a work by this Renaissance master was last unearthed in its likely place of origin: the Benedictine monastery of Santa Margherita in Pag.