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Unctio : la peinture comme sacrement dans la Pietà de Giovanni Bellini à la Pinacothèque Vaticane


KeywordsTriple Keywords
Idols and images
Images and idols
Religious images
Pictorial representations
Western art (Western countries)
Fine arts
Art, Western (Western countries)
Occidental art
Art, Visual
Arts, Visual
Arts, Fine
Visual arts
Art, Occidental
Subject (Philosophy)
Folk beliefs
Social life and customs
Customs, Social
Manners and customs
Social customs
Urban legends
Folk tales


This article addresses specifically and in depth the cornice panel of the Crowning of the Virgin still kept in Pesaro from which it was separated. We look at its particular iconography that could better be qualified as a scene of an Unction of Christ. Our goal is to understand Giovanni Bellini’s choice of subject matter as well as his choice of pushing further here his experimentation of oil as binding for its own inherent properties. We can thus understand the advent of Venetian oil painting through another angle in which the medium would be invested with symbolic meaning. The oil as binding would be in a tautological - in Daniel Russo’s sense of the word- relationship with the painted subject. The argument is developed along three main paths : that of the plastic traditions of the Franciscan order, the production of visual Venetian culture, and the “conversation,” in Hans Belting’s sense, occurring between the Venetian artist, Andrea Mantegna and Antonello da Messina. In examining the supports, it seems that Giovanni Bellini wanted to create his own miraculous image that would prepare a sacremental rite for the gaze in which the painter would be the sacerdote.

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