A glass of Bellini, Venice

Let’s celebrate (with a) Bellini!

“Very old, but still the best in painting”: with these words, the German artist Albrecht Durer praised his Venetian colleague Giovanni Bellini in 1506.

Bellini would die ten years later, around the age of 85, on the 29th of November 1516, almost exactly five centuries ago.

He was born into a family of painters: the father Jacopo had established his own workshop after collaborating with Gentile da Fabriano; his brother Gentile was sent to the court of the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II in 1479 as the best portraitist in Venice; and the Renaissance master Andrea Mantegna became his brother-in-law in 1453 after marrying his sister Nicolosia.

In a famous painting by Giovanni Bellini, the Presentation to the Temple housed in the Querini Stampalia Museum in Venice, two male characters appear on the right side: critics believe these to be portraits of Andrea Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini himself.

Giovanni Bellini, Presentation to the Temple, Venice, Querini Stampalia
Giovanni Bellini, Presentation to the Temple, ca. 1469

Giovanni Bellini’s bust, carved by Luigi Borro in 1853 and on display in the Accademia Galleries, gives us another opportunity to imagine his face and… his hairstyle!

Luigi Borro, Giovanni Bellini, Venice, Accademia
Luigi Borro, Giovanni Bellini, 1853

Perhaps the most moving image of the painter is the one that we can admire in The Drunkenness of Noah, where the face of the biblical character is thought to be a self-portrait of Bellini in his old days.

Giovanni Bellini, Venice, Doge's Palace, Drunkenness of Noah, self-portrait
Giovanni Bellini, The Drunkenness of Noah, 1515.

The painting belongs to the museum of Besançon, but is currently on loan for the exhibition Venice, the Jews and Europe at the Doge’s Palace. Noah’s figure is a moving depiction of old age, but the elegant wine cup next to him reminded me that one of the most famous Italian cocktails was invented in Venice and named after Giovanni Bellini.

So, to commemorate the anniversary of the death of the master, here is the recipe of the cocktail that Giuseppe Cipriani of Harry’s Bar dedicated to Bellini in 1948:

Prepare some white peach puree by grating the fruits with a cheese shredder and then using a strainer to collect the juice. In alternative, you can use frozen peach puree. You can add a little bit of sugar if the peaches are not sweet enough.

Add 3 parts of Prosecco to 1 part of peach puree in a flute and enjoy your summer cocktail.

Three simple but important rules:

  • Both the ingredients and glasses must be as cold as possible.

  • Do not use yellow peaches, only white ones.

  • Do not prepare the peach puree with a food processor.

Why did Cipriani dedicate this cocktail to Giovanni Bellini? Because the peach’s pink color reminded him of the beautiful pink hues in the works of the Renaissance master.

Take a tour with us to discover all the shades of pink in the paintings by Bellini found throughout Venice. Then we’ll decide which one inspired Cipriani while having an aperitif together!

Giovanni Bellini, altarpieces, Venice, Murano, Accademia, San Zaccaria, San Giovanni Grisostomo, Saint Mark, Barbarigo, Saint Jerome, angel, madonna, pink
The tunic of the little angel in the altarpiece of San Zaccaria or the vest used by Saint Mark in the Barbarigo’s altarpiece in Murano? The skin of Mary in a small painting in the Accademia Galleries or the sunset sky in the altarpiece of San Giovanni Grisostomo? Which one is the right pink?