St. Francis in the Desert (c. 1480) by Giovanni Bellini

St. Francis in the Desert - Giovanni Bellini - 1480 - 1485

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Artwork Information

TitleSt. Francis in the Desert
ArtistGiovanni Bellini
Date1480 - 1485
MediumOil on Panel
Dimensions120 x 137 cm
Art MovementEarly Renaissance
Current LocationFrick Collection, New York City, NY, US

About St. Francis in the Desert

The artwork “St. Francis in the Desert” is an exquisite example of Early Renaissance art painted by Giovanni Bellini between 1480 and 1485. This oil on panel painting measures 120 by 137 centimeters and is a religious painting currently housed in the Frick Collection, New York City, NY, US.

The artwork portrays St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, in a moment of divine communion within an expansive and meticulously detailed landscape. In the foreground, St. Francis stands with outstretched arms, his gaze tilted heavenward, symbolizing his reception of divine revelation or ecstasy. He is clothed in the simple, unadorned robe of the Franciscan order, reflecting humility and piety. To his right, there is a wooden desk with an open book, a skull, and some religious artifacts that indicate his devotion and contemplative life.

The background of the artwork is a naturalistic representation of the landscape, featuring rocky outcrops and a variety of plants, suggesting the arid yet beautiful setting of a desert. In the distance, one can discern a serene town with classic architectural elements, and a clear blue sky that indicates either dawn or dusk. Varied wildlife populates the scene, including a donkey and birds, further emphasizing St. Francis’s connection with nature and his role as a protector of all creatures.

Bellini’s use of light is especially notable, with the saint bathed in a natural light that seems to emerge from the landscape itself, highlighting the holiness of the moment. The harmony between humanity, architecture, and the natural world is a key theme in this artwork, as is the expression of deep spirituality and inner peace. Overall, the painting is a masterful blend of religious symbolism, naturalistic observation, and the serene spirituality characteristic of the Early Renaissance period.

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