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In the Midst of a Cloud: Giovanni Bellini and the Optics of the Resurrection

 

Eric R. Hupe

 

Giovanni Bellini’s Resurrection of Christ (ca. 1475-1477) was commissioned by Marco Zorzi to decorate the altar of his newly constructed chapel in San Michele in Isola. Bellini shows Christ’s Resurrection set within an amazingly naturalistic landscape of the Venetian terraferma. While scholars have long celebrated Bellini’s landscapes as poetic extensions of the sacred themes, few have considered the deeper theological significance with which the artist invested his painted worlds. In this essay, I examine the potential meaning of Bellini’s clouds – as portents of change and metaphors for Christ’s Incarnation. In particular, I view Bellini’s interpretation of the natural world paralleling the efforts made by natural philosophers who worked to blend a scientific understanding of nature with Christian faith.