Giovanni Pietro Bellori

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Giovanni Pietro Bellori (painting by Carlo Maratta )

Giovanni Pietro Bellori (born January 15, 1613 in Rome, † February 19, 1696 ibid) was an Italian antiquarian , librarian , art and antiquities collector, art theorist and art historian .

life and work

Since 1632 Bellori was assistant to the collector and writer Francesco Angeloni (1587–1652), with whom he was closely connected for over twenty years and who, as it were, accepted him in place of his son. Angeloni made him a universal heir, but his relatives were partially successful with a challenge, which is why Bellori only received the house, but the collection was squandered. He probably studied painting with Domenichino . Contemporaries like Giuseppe Ghezzi (1634–1721) regarded him as a painter. In 1652 he was first secretary of the Accademia di San Luca and was re-elected several times, in 1670 he was appointed superintendent of antiquity in Rome by Clement X ( Commissario delle Antichità ), in 1694 he resigned from this office for health reasons. Around 1680 he became librarian to Queen Christina of Sweden , for whom he had previously worked.

Only one hand-signed drawing by Bellori has survived, a small landscape painting in the Scherzo dei paesi collection of Giuseppe Canini . He worked as a consultant to artists. He designed the pictorial program for the ceiling fresco Allegory of Clementia in the Palazzo Altieri in Rome, which was executed by his friend, the painter Carlo Maratta .

Bellori was one of the first art theorists who was not predominantly an artist himself. His book on the life of contemporary artists, in which he writes on Nicolas Poussin , Annibale Carracci , Peter Paul Rubens and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio , among others , is an abundant and important source for 17th-century art in Rome. In 1693 he published a book on Roman antiquities that is still used today as a source for Roman archeology .

Bellori was an advocate of classicism in art, the principles of which he saw realized in the works of Carracci, Carlo Maratta and especially in the paintings of Poussin. In the works of Mannerist artists he saw a regrettable mistake in art. He had just as little understanding for Caravaggio, whose work, with its deliberate violations of Decorum and traditional formal rules, he vehemently rejected.

Art theory

According to Bellori, the work of an artist is primarily intellectual work, and he fought with all the means of the writer for an upgrading of the artistic profession. Like Vasari, he assigned a prominent role to the design, the disegno , as it accompanies the artistic process in all phases. The central concept of his art theory is the idea of the beautiful. The artist gets the idea from the perception of nature, whereby perception - in the sense of Poussin - does not mean simple seeing as a natural process, but is an act and an achievement of the understanding. His concept of idea is derived from Platonic and Aristotelian ideas. He was modeled on ancient artists, as they have been handed down through Pliny 's description, above all the painter Zeuxis . Zeuxi's working method is an example of an artist who selects the most beautiful elements from nature in order to compose the ideal of perfect beauty. Bellori demands from the artist a "medium balance between imitating nature and overcoming nature" ( Erwin Panofsky ).

Bellori stands in opposition to a Mannerist theory of art, as represented by Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo and Federico Zuccaro , for whom the artistic idea is of divine origin.

Bellori's art theory had a considerable influence on Johann Joachim Winckelmann and on the academy in France.


Fonts (selection)


  • Kenneth Donahue:  Bellori, Giovanni Pietro. In: Alberto M. Ghisalberti (Ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 7:  Bartolucci – Bellotto. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 1965.
  • Anna Gramiccia, Federica Piantoni (ed.): L'idea del bello. Viaggio per Roma nel Seicento con Giovan Pietro Bellori. 2 volumes. De Luca, Rome 2000, ISBN 88-8016-352-3 (exhibition catalog, in the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome 2000).
  • Giovanni Pietro Bellori: The Artist's Idea. Edited by Kurt Gerstenberg, Berlin, 1939, 47 pp.
  • Janis Bell, Thomas Willette (Ed.): Art History in the Age of Bellori. Scholarship and Cultural Politics in Seventeenth-Century Rome. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2002, ISBN 0-521-78248-1 .
  • Valeska von Rosen: Between normativity and descriptivity, or: how 'history' can be written according to Vasari. Bellori in the 1640s . In: Fabian Jonietz, Alessandro Nova (ed.): Vasari als Paradigm. Reception, Criticism, Perspectives - The Paradigm of Vasari. Reception, Criticism, Perspectives (= Collana del Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence - Max Planck Institute. Vol. 20). Conference files, 14.-16. February 2014, Florence, Art History Institute, Max Planck Institute. Marsilio, Venice 2016, ISBN 978-88-317-2661-0 , pp. 163-182.

Web links


  1. ↑ In 1634 Bellori lived in Angeloni's household after the census