St. Francis in the Desert

Oil painting of St. Francis dressed in robes in a rocky landscape with animals and a city in the dis

Giovanni Bellini (ca. 1424/35–1516)
St. Francis in the Desert, ca. 1475–80
Oil on panel
Panel: 49 1/16 x 55 7/8 in. (124.6 x 142 cm)
Image: 48 7/8 × 55 5/16 in. (124.1 × 140.5 cm)
The Frick Collection, New York
Photo Michael Bodycomb


The painting was commissioned by the Venetian nobleman Giovanni Michiel, probably as a devotional piece for his collection. By 1525, it had entered the collection of the prominent aristocrat Taddeo Contarini. The panel most likely depicts one of the key scenes from the iconography of St. Francis of Assisi (ca. 1181–1226), the moment when he received the wounds of the Crucifixion (stigmata) inflicted on Christ during the Passion. This is said to have occurred in the summer of 1224, while the saint was at La Verna, a site in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. Bellini shows St. Francis in contemplation, standing in a large and beautiful landscape. The palms of his hands display the wounds, while the landscape and animals around him highlight his close relationship with the natural world.

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