The Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari is home to the three of the most beautiful paintings in Venice. Two are by Titian, and I shall return to them in later posts, and one is by Giovanni Bellini (c. 1430-1516).
Known as the Frari Triptych, Bellini’s painting (signed and dated 1488) can be found in the sacristy, where Pietro Pesaro lies interred with his wife Franceschina Tron. The triptych was commissioned by the couple's three sons, Nicolò, Marco and Benedetto, and depicts the Virgin and Child flanked by St. Nicholas and St. Peter (left panel) and St. Mark and St. Benedict (right panel). The patron saints of all four male members of the Pesaro family are duly represented in the painting.
The inscription above the Virgin's head reads: IANUA CERTA POLI DUC MENTEM DIRIGE VITAM: QUAE PERAGAM COMMISSA TUAE SINT OMNIA CURAE (Secure gateway to Heaven, guide my mind, lead my life, may everything I do be entrusted to your care).
The elaborate gilded wooden frame was carved by Jacopo da Faenza.
On seeing the Frari Triptych, the great American novelist, Henry James (1843-1916), was moved to write: 'Nothing in Venice is more perfect than this, and we know of no work of art more complete'.