The Continence of Scipio

by Giovanni Bellini

Washington, D. C., National Gallery of Art

Continence of Scipio


About 1505 Cav. Proc. (later Cardinal) Francesco Cornaro (B-60) commissioned Andrea Mantegna to create a cycle of four paintings on Classical subjects, selected apparently because of their association with historical Roman figures with whom the Cornaro family claimed kinship.

Mantegna was able to complete only the first of the projected cycle, The Introduction of the Cult of Cybele in Rome, before his death in 1506.

Upon Mantegna's death, the Cornaro patron turned to Mantegna's equally celebrated brother-in-law, Giovanni Bellini, to execute, with his studio, The Continence of Scipio, perhaps based on a drawing by Mantegna. Today the painting (oil on canvas, 74.8 x 356.2 cm.) is in the Samuel H. Kress collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C. (See P. F. Brown, Venice and Antiquity [New Haven, 1996], pp. 252-5.) The painting is sometimes alternatively captioned An Episode from the Life of Publius Cornelius Scipio.


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