St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria is an oil painting by Gentile and Giovanni Bellini, dated to 1504–07 and held in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan
The work is a huge canvas (telero) destined for the Scuola Grande di San Marco in Venice. It is 26m in surface, and has rich narrative and iconographic features. The cycle of paintings with stories of the life of St Mark was completed around 60 years later by Giorgione and Tintoretto, and is today housed in the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Accademia in Venice.
The canvas was started by Gentile in July 1504, but after his death in February 1507, when it was "largely completed", it passed to his brother Giovanni, as indicated in Gentile's will. Giovanni completed it, making some modifications. The invitation to complete it was probably from his brother just before he died, to which Giovanni probably responded negatively, This explains its insertion in the will of the clause that consigned a precious collection of drawing to Giovanni should he complete the painting. The commission was confirmed as being passed to Giovanni by the Scuola on 7 March 1507.
The scene is rich with exotic elements adapted from real-life that Gentile had the opportunity to study during his trip to Constantinople in 1479–1480. Decorative elements of Mamluk architecture, rather than Ottoman, suggest that the artist may also have reached Jerusalem.
It is not clear which parts were done by which brother: Vasari only mentioned Gentile in the 1550 version of the Vite, and omitting them in the 1568 edition. Modern criticism considers Gentile to have done the background, except for the modified parts, and possibly the characters on the right hand. Giovanni is assigned with some certainty the portraits on the left, and some of the central group.
The canvas was reduced at an unknown time, a strip along the top being cut away, where the buildings finished. The work arrived in the Brera in 1809, following the Napoleonic invasion.
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