In the Frame: Art History Link-Up student Ore Gazit’s favourite painting
Art History Link-Up is creating an increasingly diverse creative sector by providing state-system students with qualifications in art history. As part of our partnership with the charity, Ore Gazit, one of its former students, speaks to us about an artwork he admires – and a specialist from Christie’s, where Ore worked as an intern after his A-levels, offers his hot take on it too
- Ore Gazit and Milo Dickinson
Ore Gazit is an alumnus of the Art History Link-Up programme, through which he studied – free of charge – for an Art History A-level and EPQ at the National Gallery the Wallace Collection and online (as a result of the pandemic). Ore is now working towards a history degree at the University of Oxford. Off the back of his AHLU studies, he undertook an internship at Christie’s, the London auction house and AHLU partner, in a university holiday. The picture he’s chosen is Giovanni Bellini’s Doge Leonardo Loredan, c1501-02
Walking past this picture at the National Gallery is like being reacquainted with an old friend. The gaze of the doge is unmistakable and seems to catch your eyes before they even reach the painting yourself. Deep in thought, Leonardo Loredan’s eyes narrow and his lips curl, as if about to reveal a secret, before holding back. Bellini was able to represent the Machiavellian leader of a war-torn republic in a state of transient peace.
This portrait always strikes me as an intensely passionate love letter to Venice. The rich, blue background transports the viewer to the humid heat of the Piazza San Marco and the winding canals that run through the city, better than any Canaletto could. Draped in delicate silk robes, the doge symbolises Venetian prosperity, access to trade with the East and the adoption of new ideas at a time of intellectual and artistic overhaul.
The work itself is of modest size, especially when seen next to the domineering Crivelli’s nearby that crane your neck up towards the ceiling. Yet it continues to invite and intrigue. Small but mighty – a feast for the eyes – it is a gem of blue and gold set in the heart of Trafalgar Square.
I was fortunate to learn about this work during the height of lockdown, as part of my A-level History of Art studies with Art History Link-Up. We had already studied the Renaissance in Florence and Rome, and were getting to grips with the Venetian masters.
I had studied this portrait alongside Bellini’s St. Jerome in the Desert. Both works made me appreciate the painter’s mastery of fine details, which surely rivals the craftsmanship of Van Eyck. These works were able to tell stories about life, faith, nature and power and were a welcome escape from the monotony of life in quarantine.
When the National Gallery first opened after restrictions were lifted, I remember paying attention to the work for the first time, having skipped over it in the past. Now, every time I return to it, I am reminded of those virtual lessons, of seeing my teachers and classmates in small squares on my screen rather than being sat alongside them and of falling in love with Venice in the heat of London’s exceptionally warm summer lockdown of 2021.
Milo Dickinson is a specialist in old master paintings at Christie’s
Working as a specialist at Christie’s, I am fortunate that the National Gallery is just a short walk down the road. I try to visit once a week, to compare and contrast the pictures I see at the auction house with the paintings in the National’s collection. I like to scrutinise and to learn from them, as that instructs everything I do – from cataloguing paintings to putting a value on them.
Giovanni Bellini’s portrait of Leonardo Loredan has long been a favourite of mine – the intelligent and intense gaze of the most powerful man in Venice is captured so brilliantly by the greatest painter in the city.
When he made this painting, Bellini was trialling a new method of using slow-drying oil paints, instead of mixing in egg. That’s why the colours are so rich, The contours of the face have been blended to look natural too, whereas before the outlines would have been visible to see, as in Botticelli’s portraits.
When I studied art history, I learned about the sculpted portrait busts of Donatello and of the Venetian marble carvers, like Tullio Lombardo. Now, I realise that one can see that Bellini was mirroring these artists in his portrait. Perhaps Lombardo was a friend who lived next door; maybe he and Bellini dreamed up the design of the portrait together, over a few bowls of Venetian spaghetti.
Art History Link-Up is currently piloting free ‘Introduction to Art History’ courses for 13-15-year-olds from state-supported schools at London museums and galleries, funded by the Band Trust. To read more about July’s course, visit the charity’s website
Giovanni Bellini, Doge Leonardo Loredan, c1501-02 © The National Gallery, London.
Gallery photograph: Ed Hands
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