Giovanni Bellini (School), Saint Zaccharia

Artist | School of Giovanni Bellini 
Title | Saint Zaccharia
Date | Early 16th century 
Medium | Brown pen and ink, black chalk, and white highlights on now discoloured blue paper 
Dimensions | 240 x 120 mm 
InstitutionLes collections du département des arts graphiques, Musée du Louvre, Paris 
Credit line | © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Michel Urtado
Theme | The Celestial Realm 
Museum number | INV 5604 

Giovanni Bellini or Giambellino (1431/36–1516) was born in Venice, son of painter Jacopo. His brother Gentile (1396–1470/71) was also a painter. The Bellini family dominated the artistic scene in the city until the beginning of the sixteenth century. Giovanni was initially guided by the professional necessities of the family and specialised in religious themes, yet by the 1490s, he was proficient in a myriad of genres, including mythological and allegorical subjects. His dominance facilitated an expansion of his workshop, which offered training to many assistants, often referred to as Belliniani, as well as to a number of leading painters of the next generation, such as Sebastiano del Piombo (ca. 1485–1547), Lorenzo Lotto (ca. 1480–1556) and Cima da Conegliano (ca. 1459–1517). A significant amount of drawings in the Bellinesque style survive. Some of these can be understood as preparatory sketches for paintings, and others do not correspond to any extant works. Previously attributed to Lorenzo Lotto, the drawing of St Zaccharia in the Louvre belongs to the latter category. It was produced by a presently unidentified artist of Bellini’s school. The dark tones in brown ink and black chalk are softened by the bluish tinge of the paper, while the white highlights imbue the drawing with an atmospheric lightness where contour gives way to tonal modelling.