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Journal > Volumes > 40 (2009) / 3 (Autumn)
Giovanni Bellini’s Feast of the Gods and Banquets of the Ancient Ritual Calendar
Susan Nalezyty
Temple University

Duke Alfonso d’Este commissioned subjects from ancient texts to decorate his private suite, but a single episode from a literary source has yet to be satisfactorily argued of his first commission, Giovanni Bellini’s Feast of the Gods. A broader consideration of the sources, however, reveals that the guests in attendance at this painted fete are not a random collection of deities. Rather, their affiliations and proximity to each other appear well grounded in Macrobius’s Saturnalia and in Ovid’s Fasti, and uncover new pictorial meaning for this much-researched canvas. Moreover, this subject meaningfully connects this painting with the duke’s later commissions from Titian, particularly with his Bacchanal of the Andrians. Further study into the Este family history and the patron’s aims and inclinations explains problematic iconographical details within the painting, and clarifies Bellini's allegory for Duke Alfonso, of wealth through horticultural abundance for Ferrara.

Pages: 745 - 768